A British biogas business is urging Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth, to include all eligible renewable heat projects in the COVID-19 Extension of the Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), announced in the March 2020 Budget. 

As in other construction sectors, COVID-19 has caused delays to renewable energy projects. The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy responded by extending the RHI completion deadline by 12 months. However, smaller biogas projects originally included in the RHI have now been excluded. 

This deliberate omission of sub-600kW biogas projects could result in the loss of a number of green heat investments on farm and factory sites, including creameries and vegetable processing plants, according to Foodchains, a promoter of on-site bioenergy. 

Richard Gueterbock, Director of Foodchains, said, “Commercially viable low carbon, shovel-ready projects that fall below the Non-Domestic RHI Tariff Guarantee threshold (600kW thermal for biogas) have been hit by COVID-19 related planning delays, supply issues and visit restrictions. This unfair exclusion means that a number of clean heat projects, with insufficient time to complete by 31 March 2021, could be abandoned.”

New projects, accounting for around 20MW of renewable heat capacity on farms and factory sites, may be at risk. The Renewable Energy Association estimates that these include up to 30 biogas developments, each worth between £2m and £4m, and a similar number of biomass and ground source heat pump projects. 

Richard added: “Losing cost-effective industrial projects will undermine UK reduction targets and delay the transition to renewable energy. During the COVID-19 pandemic there was a significant but temporary decline in atmospheric emissions across Europe. For this reason, industrial renewable heat projects must be part of government ambition to ‘build back better’.

“We need the Energy Minister to take urgent action to reverse the unfair exclusion of smaller projects from the RHI COVID-19 Extension.  Without green investments such as these projects, there will be a gaping hole in government plans for carbon net-zero, which would be hugely embarrassing, as the UK is hosting the COP 26 Global Climate Change Conference at the end of 2021.”