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Chain sawing felled tree

Regulations and guidance

1) Sustainability criteria:


Renewable Heat Incentive

In order to ensure the sustainability of biomass fuel, sustainability criteria for the Governments Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, will dictate that, from Spring 2015, in order to be eligible for the RHI, biomass installations will be required to demonstrate, either through reporting or sourcing from an approved supplier, that their biomass meets a greenhouse gas lifecycle emissions limit target. For information on the Biomass Suppliers list and how to register  click here. A Biomass Suppliers List workshop was held in June 2014, to see the presentations click here.

For advice on the procurement of timber and timber products, forest certification schemes and other forms of evidence of sustainability (Category B evidence) see the  Central Point of Expertise on Timber Procurement (CPET) documents.

Renewables Obligation (Scotland)

Since 1 April 2011, biomass electricity generators over 50KW have been required to report against the following sustainability criteria:

  • Minimum 60% GHG emission saving for electricity generation using solid biomass or biogas relative to fossil fuel
  • General restrictions on using materials sourced from land with high biodiversity value or high carbon stock - including primary forest, peatland, and wetlands

Following a 2-year transition period, it is intended that from October 2013 generating stations of 1 megawatt (MW) capacity and above will be required to meet the criteria in order to receive Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) under the RO.

Under changes announced on 23rd August 2013, Biomass electricity will produce over 70% greenhouse gas savings compared to fossil fuel alternatives.  From April 2015, the biomass industry will be required to demonstrate their fuel is sustainable or lose financial support under the RO.

The new criteria for sustainable forest management are based on a range of issues such as:

  • sustainable harvesting rates,
  • biodiversity protection and
  • land use rights for indigenous populations.

Organisations who do not comply with the new requirements could see financial support withheld.

All generators of 1 Megawatt (MW) capacity or more using solid biomass or biogas feedstock will be required to demonstrate that they are meeting the criteria in order to claim support under the Renewables Obligation. This would cover around 98% of all biomass power generation in the UK.

On 23rd August 2013, a new requirement for generators of 1MW capacity and above to provide an independent sustainability audit with their annual sustainability report, was also announced.

For further information on the August 2013 annoucment,  click here.

Ofgem has produced guidance on how to comply with sustainability criteria, for further information  click here

2) Forestry and woodland management

Felling license

In Scotland, all woodland owners (indeed anyone who wishes to fell a tree) must obtain a licence from Forestry Commission Scotland and comply with the legal and replanting requirements this entails.

Information about felling licences is on Forestry Commission Scotland's website

UK Forestry Standard

Forestry practice in Scotland must adhere to the UK Forestry Standard. This is currently being revised to demonstrate further improvements in sustainable practices.

UK Woodland Assurance Standard

UK woodland owners can certify their woodland management practices against an independent standard, the UK Woodland Assurance Standard (UKWAS), which is a single common standard used within forest certification programmes in the UK.

Certification means that you can carry the logo of international, independent organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC).

These organisations set sustainability standards covering biodiversity and environmental impacts, workers rights, indigenous people's rights, legal frameworks, monitoring and assessment and best practice. All contractors and subcontractors must produce an audit and chain of custody trail for their fuel stock.