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Summer 2017 – View from the Bridge

15th August 2017 Posted by

Andy Hill, Market Development Director at SUEZ recycling and recovery UK reports his views on the latest regulations within the wood recycling sector.

As I sit here gathering my thoughts as to what to share with you, I can’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu or in other words…here we go again on the merry-go-round of regulatory review!

No sooner is FPP (almost) concluded, with the finalisation of the wood sector’s bespoke template and sign off by the Environment Agency, (who will use it not only as the basis for assessing wood sector permit applications but also potentially other materials too), than the next piece of regulatory review comes over the horizon in the form of Waste Wood Classification (WWC). For those of you who aren’t yet fully aware of this, the Environment Agency’s (EA) contention is that if there is any element of hazardous wood (i.e. one piece of CCA treated wood) in a load then the whole load is contaminated and must be deemed hazardous.

You can read more about this in the article in the WRA magazine, suffice to say it has been dominating a lot of our time over recent months and remains a focus as we attempt to reach a conclusion that satisfies the EA whilst retaining common sense.

I decided it would be more constructive however, to share my thoughts on the positive contribution I see our sector providing to the UK’s long-term energy supply.

Over the past five years we have seen huge growth in waste wood being recovered for use in biomass. The UK’s Renewables Policy has played a big part in this, realising rapid growth in biomass supply to generate electricity, with wood recyclers supplying around 1.5 million tonnes of processed post-consumer waste wood to biomass facilities last year.

This year that figure is set to double, with an additional 1.6 million tonnes of new waste wood biomass facilities under construction and due to begin operations. These facilities burn biomass manufactured from waste wood to produce power or combined heat and power. They also significantly contribute to the UK’s overall energy security, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and further reducing the amount of materials sent to landfill.

The 3.1 million tonnes of waste wood biomass expected to be used this year alone represents around 2.9 TWh of annual domestic power production, that’s enough to supply over 700,000 UK households.

It signifies the success of the UK Renewables Policy, with all forms of renewable energy now accounting for around 25 per cent of energy production and coal just 10%. This compares to 1990 when coal represented 70 per cent, nuclear 20 per cent and oil 10 per cent.

But more than that, the introduction of biomass as an energy source has begun to move our country away from the historic model of centralised energy generation and towards the development of localised distributed networks.

Biomass power stations are increasingly fuelling local industrial operations as well as the national network. This means minimal investment is required for additional infrastructure. They are also helping to reduce emissions and enabling us to retain our waste wood in the UK as a valuable resource.

Going forward, the new biomass infrastructure, in conjunction with current end markets for waste wood, should be sufficient in order to ensure no or very limited volumes of waste wood are sent to landfill. The on-going supply chain for waste wood biomass is robust; people and industry will not stop producing waste wood.

WRA members have invested heavily over the past few years in both processing equipment and additional measures to ensure they are compliant with regulations, and will undoubtedly continue to do so.

We recognise our country needs a mixed portfolio of energy generation, whether coal, gas, nuclear, wind, solar or biomass. We also recognise many hold strong views over the environmental impact and efficiency of each.

But most of all I think it is time to acknowledge the benefit our sector brings in terms of the UK’s energy security and the knock-on benefits that will undoubtedly have.

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