UK Energy Minister John Hayes

The UK government has introduced a voluntary reporting process under the Renewables Obligation subsidy mechanism to minimise regulatory burdens on companies intending to convert coal plants into biomass facilities.

UK Energy Minister John Hayes said the system will enbale the government to better estimate how much financial support these projects will neeed.

"Energy is central to our economic recovery. We must deliver investment in new infrastructure while keeping costs down for consumers," said Hayes.

"The solution set out today means less new red tape for developers and enables Government to manage cost to consumers."

The government announced in July 2012 that it will introduce new bands under its Renewables Obligation regime to provide differing levels of support based on how much biomass co-firing facilities are using.

New information, released on Friday in the form of a fact sheet, contains more detail on the regime and the "grandfathering arrangements", which includes guidance on what happens to the level of support received if the plant changes the level of biomass it is burning.

"Converting from coal to sustainably sourced biomass is good news for both investors and consumers," Hayes said.

"It provides a new beginning for our existing power stations, enabling them to achieve radical reductions in emissions, whilst providing affordable, secure and clean energy. I hope that by setting a simple process, we can help safeguard jobs and encourage new investment in biomass generation."

Eggborough Power chief executive Neil O’Hara welcomed the news. "Today’s announcement by DECC removes one of the major barriers for biomass conversion projects like ours, which is now one step closer to making a significant contribution to energy security, growth and jobs, and renewable power," said O’Hara.

"With plant infrastructure already in place and ready to be converted, these projects offer a realistic and timely contribution to the capacity crunch looming for the UK in 2015.

Image: UK Energy Minister John Hayes. Photo: Courtesy of the Business, Innovation and Skills Office.