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Netherlands delays biomass consultation: Update

09 Mar 2016 16:13 GMT
Netherlands delays biomass consultation: Update

Updates headline, lead, second paragraph with delay information

London, 9 March (Argus) — The Dutch government has delayed opening a consultation on its biomass sustainability criteria under the renewable subsidy scheme SDE+.

The consultation had been planned to open on 7 March. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl), which will co-ordinate the consultation, was unable to give a new date but more information will be released by the end of this week, RVO.nl said.

A webinar planned for 11 March will be pushed back until 31 March, after the first round of the SDE+ scheme opens to applications from coal-fired power plants seeking to co-fire with wood pellets on 22 March. RVO.nl was unable to comment on the reasons for the delay.

The so-called verification protocol consultation will address how the published sustainability criteria can be translated into "workable verification procedures and indicators", the government said.

The consultation will not address "the issue of sustainability criteria per se", but instead how the criteria can be translated into a workable verification procedure.

The government will issue a draft verification protocol for comment which will be available online. Publication of the final verification protocol had been expected in June prior to the delay.

Publication of Dutch sustainability criteria last year created some confusion with its requirement that forests must have "FSC or equivalent" certification. A special advisory commission will assess which certificates comply with the criteria. Certificates to be assessed include Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), American Tree Farm System (ATFS) and Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Until it is known which certificates are compliant, biomass suppliers will be required to report on sustainability to demonstrate compliance with the published criteria.

The sustainability criteria are expected to be passed into law in 2017, ahead of the resumption of co-firing with wood pellets in the Netherlands.

The biomass industry was disappointed by the Dutch government's insistence that sustainable certification be obligatory at the forest management unit (FMU) level, ruling out the Sustainable Biomass Partnership (SBP) as the sole certification scheme. The SBP does not certify at the FMU level, but instead at the pellet mill level. The SBP is participating in the Dutch consultation and SBP certification could be approved for use in addition to FMU certification. "The key issue is that it should be possible for SBP to be recognised as a tool for additional verification for those criteria not covered by a sustainable forest management scheme", SBP said.

Because SBP can certify at the pellet mill level it could be temporarily used for FMUs smaller than 500 hectares. Such units can demonstrate sustainability during an unspecified transitional period at the level of a larger "cohesive region of which the forest forms a part" which would be the first link in the chain. That is "usually the pellet mill", the sustainability criteria state.

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