Finally, in the second half of January, the European Commission is set to present a report on the sustainability requirements for solid and gaseous biomass sources in electricity, heating and cooling (not transport). In its report, previously a communication according to later drafts, the Commission should reject the need for binding sustainability criteria. In theory, under Article 17(9) of the recent renewables Directive (2009/28/EC), the Commission should have reported by 31 December 2009.

Whilst the Commission's report gives, in an annex, a methodology for establishing sustainability criteria for biomass, it stops short of calling for binding requirements. Nonetheless, the Commission does state that particularly those member states with their own national sustainability criteria should duly integrate them with the Commission's own recommendations.

The Commission also warns member states to ensure that their national sustainability schemes do not constitute a means of arbitrary discrimination or a disguised restriction on trade. In its impact assessment, the Commission warns that, if no action is taken at EU level, there will be a "complex" set of sustainability requirements at national and even regional level for biomass used for heating andelectricity.

The Commission has promised to report back by 31 December 2011 on whether national schemes have sufficiently and appropriately addressed sustainability related to the use of biomass from inside and outside the EU. It will also examine whether these schemes have led, or not, to trade barriers as well as barriers to the development of the bio-energy sector. Further to this, the Commission promises reexamining whether or not common sustainability criteria at EU level would be appropriate.

For the moment, though, the biomass industry associations concerned welcome the non-binding measures. In a joint statement, various associations had argued that non-binding measures would provide adequate' guarantees for sustainability of...

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