In response to the growing importance of woody biomass as a renewable energy, PEFC is increasingly working to strengthen the link between sustainable biomass and forest certification.
Europe’s demand for imported wood pellets is growing, and in the next two decades this demand is expected to reach 60 million tons a year – most of which will come from the USA and Canada. There has already been significant growth in this area, with European imports of wood pellets from North America doubling from one million tons in 2009 to over two million tons in 2011.
At the same time, the European Union has been developing sustainability criteria to ensure that any solid biomass used for renewable energy entering Europe is produced sustainably. These criteria will cover imported wood pellets, setting the bar for landowners and pellet manufacturers in the areas of biomass chain of custody, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity conservation and water resources. With the growing importance of several countries, including the homegrown market, as producers and exporters of wood pellets, it is vital that pellet producers and purchasers, along with other participants in the production and export supply chains, are aware of these sustainable sourcing requirements.
Woodfuel & the Renewables Obligation
On 22 August 2013, the UK government announced its decision to bring in sustainable forest management criteria for the use of biomass feedstocks that are virgin wood or made from virgin wood, from April 2014, under the Renewables Obligation (RO).
Similarly the UK government has confirmed its intention to bring in biomass sustainability criteria, including land criteria, for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), and also confirmed that for Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive land criteria consistent with those of the RO are expected to come into force in April 2015 (subject to Parliamentary timings).
The Timber Standard for Heat and Electricity sets out how the land criteria will apply to the use of woodfuel under the Renewable Heat Incentive, Contracts for Difference (CfD) and Renewables Obligation. The standard draws upon the principles set under the UK government Timber Procurement Policy (UK-TPP).
These principles, and the wider UK-TPP, were developed for central government and public bodies for use when purchasing timber and wood products, including woodfuel. The principles cover a range of social, economic and environmental considerations that are part of good sustainable forest management practices and are based on internationally agreed criteria. The principles also include a requirement to demonstrate evidence that the wood supplied is from legal and sustainable sources, including traceability from the forest source.