Letrecycle News :
Work has begun to help find a long-term solution to the difficulties energy from waste facility operators face in claiming subsidies under the Renewables Obligation.
The Department of energy and climate change (DECC) and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) have jointly launched a competition to develop a “cost-effective” method of measuring the energy output from all types of mixed wastes.
The competition will aim to address the current situation whereby, under a system known as ‘deeming’, energy from waste operators can only claim the Renewables Obligation Certificate (ROC) subsidy on up to 50% of the total energy content of their waste input.
If they want to claim on more of the energy content, the energy regulator Ofgem requires operators to undertake tests to directly measure the renewable energy content of their waste. But, these tests are widely considered to be costly and time-consuming.
Last year, it emerged that the Renewable Energy Association and Ofgem were working together on Carbon 14, a method of determining the renewable carbon content of feedstock for waste to energy technologies such as pyrolosis and gasification (see letsrecycle.com story).
But, the project brief for the joint DECC/TSB competition notes that, while providing an accurate method for determining renewable carbon content, Carbon 14 does not give a direct measure of energy content.
“This challenge seeks to address a means of providing a transparent method for determining the renewable energy content from a variety of renewable waste streams,” it explains. In particular, the brief requires a method that does not depend totally on the actual sampling of waste.
The brief notes that the change is particularly important because, while the ‘deeming’ system can be used as the basis for financial assumptions by project developers seeking investment, it is only an “interim solution”.
The deeming system is also based on a declining scale, which means that the proportion of energy content waste-to-energy operators will be able to claim ROCs against in this way is set to fall to 40% from 2013 to 2018 and then again to 35% after 2018.
In light of this, DECC and the TSB claim that moving to “cost-effective” system will provide a number of advantages, including allowing the UK to count all renewable energy derived from bio-based waste towards its renewable energy targets.
It also claims that it would “strengthen” the industry by providing biomass measurement techniques and supporting methodologies that are approved by Ofgem and can therefore be used to claim ROCs, while also allowing operators to claim on actual biomass content.
And, it said that the method could then be built into projects and included as part of the initial investment cost for a development.
It explains: “This will help to develop an agreed accurate technique or method to measure energy output from all types of mixed wastes so that all renewable energy generated from bio-based wastes is counted towards our targets.”
“It will also allows us to make full use of potentially untapped waste resources, and ensure that industry receive the appropriate ROCs.”
The brief outlines phase one of the competition, which requires a concept study for the methodologies, technology or equipment needed to achieve the competition objective. There is potential to run a second phase this year to further develop “promising” approaches to the challenge.
The competition is being run while work on the Carbon 14 technique is ongoing. Tricia Wiley, senior policy analyst for the Renewable Energy Association, told letsrecycle.com: “We have put forward a proposal to use Carbon 14, but for Ofgem to accept it we need to get independent advice to say there are no problems with it.”
She noted that the REA would be happy for its work on Carbon 14 to feed into the DECC/TSB competition.