Consent for Bristol bioenergy plant rests on fuel sustainability

17th March 2011

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The sustainability of the fuel to be used by a proposed bioenergy plant can be a material consideration in the planning consent decision, according to the secretary of state for communities and local government, Eric Pickles.

The secretary's opinion was issued in response to an appeal against a decision by Bristol City Council to refuse planning permission for the redevelopment of part of the former Sevalco plant in Avonmouth into a 50MW liquid biomass power station by W4B.

At the planning inquiry, in August 2010, the inspector ruled that the source and sustainability of the fuel destined for use in the proposed plant is not a material consideration in the determination of the case. However, Pickles says power stations using bio-liquids derived from biomass are different from other electricity-generating plants, and that the sustainability of the fuels is a material consideration.

In overturning the council’s decision and granting planning permission, the secretary of state has imposed two conditions relating to the sustainability of the fuel used by the plant: that it is sustainable and meets the criteria relating to the sustainability of bio-liquids in the EU renewable energy Directive (2009/28/EC); and that the operators submit annual reports to the council on the sustainability of all bio-liquids used as fuel.

The decision means that developers and operators of future renewable-energy projects that use bio-liquids will have to gather more information in terms of the fuels’ sustainability. Those developing or operating future fossil-fuel-based energy plants do not have to meet a similar standard even though the plants may have similar nature conservation sourcing issues. W4B hopes to begin construction at the Avonmouth site later this year.


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