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Biomass market debates voluntary sustainability schemes

19 Nov 2012, 2.39 pm GMT

Biomass market debates voluntary sustainability schemes

London, 19 November (Argus) — The biomass market is debating which voluntary sustainability programme should be adopted as an industry standard, it emerged at the first International Wood Pellet Roundtable (IWPR) in Vienna last week.

The vast majority of market players are in favour of “harmonised” criteria, but there is talk over whether the market should back biomass-specific standard Green Gold Label (GGL) or one of the recognised forestry certification schemes such as Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

“US biomass producers are very much in favour of harmonised sustainability criteria,” Enviva director of marketing and sustainability Elizabeth Woodworth said at a UK government Biomass All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) meeting. “Currently we have to jump through several different hoops to serve all of our customers.”

GGL was initiated by utility RWE and Control Union, but was divested earlier this year to become an independent certification system. It is recognised under UK and Dutch sustainability criteria, and is awaiting approval to become the only biomass-specific standard under the EU Renewable Energy Directive.

GGL was specifically developed for biomass, but there is some opinion that, because of its previous ties with RWE, it is utility-focused rather than balanced to meet the needs of producers and consumers.

The main forest certification systems already have large non-governmental organisation (NGO) representation on their boards, while GGL does not, according to market participants. This means GGL could come up against more problems in gaining wider acceptance outside the main biomass players.

While none of the major forest certification schemes have greenhouse gas (GHG) balance or carbon stock levels included, FSC has said it is examining the possibilities of using the chain of custody to calculate carbon footprints of forest products, and PEFC has said it is ready to adapt its certification to meet sustainability standards for biomass. Carbon stock needs to be addressed through reforestation and soil quality.

“We will adapt our requirements to serve EU biomass sustainability requirements,” PEFC Germany managing director Dirk Teegelbekkers said at an industry conference in Berlin. “We are continuously improving our schemes and are ready for any kind of market changes.”

Many of the main pellet producers and suppliers are certified by several of the main certification bodies to ensure they can supply to the widest possible audience, as different national standards recognise different certification programmes.

But less than 10pc of the world's forests are certified to any scheme, and only a quarter of global roundwood is certified. Of the total forest cover that is certified, 60pc is certified under PEFC and 40pc FSC.

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