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Latest Government subsidies 'weak on EfW support'

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) has warned that the Government’s latest subsidy round falls short of supporting gasification.

The Government announced a £290m renewable energy contracts for difference (CfD) auction and published a consultation on the closing of coal-fired power stations in the UK.

The REA said the consultation and auction were stabilising actions following more than a dozen major policy changes in the previous 18 months which had reduced investor confidence in the sector, slowed deployment and led to job losses.

But it said support for fuelled technologies such as advanced energy from waste (EfW) and biomass combined heat and power (CHP) had been significantly capped in capacity terms while the Government undertakes a review.

The REA said these limitations could constrain industry efforts to drive next-generation energy systems, such as gasification, into the mainstream.

It also questioned why biomass conversion, solar and onshore wind were still being blocked from taking part in the auction, despite being some of the lowest cost forms of power generation available.

Head of policy and external affairs James Court said he expected to see competitive bids from a wide range of developers for technologies such as EfW and anaerobic digestion but he took aim at the Government’s coal decommissioning strategy.

“There is […] no support again for biomass conversion, which is a pragmatic way of putting the coal plants we are decommissioning to good use.

“We have an opportunity to get extra value from this existing fossil fuel infrastructure, which can be upgraded to provide low-carbon, affordable and flexible biomass power generation.”

In November last year, the Government announced its intention to take unabated coal out of the energy mix.

Business and energy secretary Greg Clark (pictured) said: “This is a key part of our upcoming industrial strategy, which will provide companies with the further support they need to innovate as we build a diverse energy system fit for the 21st century that is reliable while keeping bills down for our families and businesses.”

Richard Warren, senior energy policy adviser at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, agreed that uncertainty during the past 18 months caused by policy ”chops and changes” and delays in investment decisions had left the industry wanting certainty and a sense of direction.

“The Government announced almost a year ago that it intended to phase out coal power by 2025, but there has been precious little detail on how this will be done and what contingency plans will be in place. Today’s consultation starts to provide some of these answers, but we need to see a comprehensive strategy leading from this, including better contingency plans to ensure security of supply.

“Further details on the next CfD auctions are also helpful to build confidence for investors in the energy market, a crucial factor bringing forward vital future infrastructure investment. Beyond this auction, however, we would expect to see plans for a more technology-neutral approach.”

Meanwhile, national co-ordinator of lobby group the UK Without Incineration, Shlomo Dowen, said the case for removing all gasification and pyrolysis projects from CfD subsidies was “clear and compelling”.

He said: ”Despite decades of research and development, and despite billions of pounds of wasted investment, gasification and pyrolysis remain incapable of reliably delivering energy and should not be depended upon to meet the country’s future energy needs.

“Furthermore, misplaced reliance upon gasification and pyrolysis comes at the expense of supporting technologies that are actually worth pursuing.”

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