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Call for participation in Better Biomass scheme revision as part of sustainability framework for biobased raw materials

Better Biomass is the certification scheme that can be used to demonstrate the sustainability of biobased raw materials for energy applications and biobased products. Better Biomass can also be used to demonstrate compliance with legal requirements in the framework of Directive (EU) 2018/2001 (RED II) and the Dutch regulation concerning conformity assessment of solid biomass for energy applications. The Better Biomass scheme documents will be revised. The several interpretations will be integrated in NTA 8080 and NCS 8080 to improve user-friendliness. Also the (non-legal) sustainability requirements will be reviewed in view of the sustainability framework for biobased raw materials.

Better Biomass (NTA 8080) certification is possible since 2009. Many changes have occurred since the launch en the scheme documents have been continuously updated to ensure legal compliance and to respond to new insights about what is considered sustainably produced biobased raw materials. The current editions of NTA 8080-1 with sustainability requirements and NTA 8080-2 with chain-of-custody requirements were published in December 2015. The document containing the rules for certification, NCS 8080, was published in Augustus 2018. By using interpretations that are established in the Interpretation Document it is ensured that the Better Biomass scheme remains up to date. The Interpretation Document has become a bulky document. With revising NTA 8080-1:2015, NTA 8080-2:2015 and NCS 8080:2018-08, it is intended to start with an empty Interpretation Document.

Sustainability framework biobased raw materials

The use of biobased raw materials for energy applications is heavily debated. Better Biomass is already applicable for biobased products and include a reporting requirement about the raw material efficiency. In the recently presented ‘Fit for 55’ climate package by the European Commission, the role of biobased raw materials is acknowledged. Strict sustainability requirements are proposed when (woody) biomass is utilized for bioenergy. In addition, high-end valorisation (cascading) of biobased raw materials is promoted. Also in the Netherlands, the government is developing a sustainability framework for biobased raw materials taking into account the recommendations of the SER advisory report ‘Biomass in the balance: A sustainability framework for high-value use of bio-based raw materials’. The Better Biomass scheme revision also intends to provide concrete building blocks to support such a sustainability framework.

Participation in revision

Interested parties can express their interest to take part in the revision by sending an e-mail to info@betterbiomass.com. Participation is free of charge. The working group will develop first the English version of the documents, which will be translated to Dutch after final text has been agreed. The (online) kick-off meeting is anticipated in September 2021.

For more information, contact Jarno Dakhorst, Better Biomass scheme manager, by e-mail info@betterbiomass.com or telephone +31 15 2 690 326.

Better Biomass receives positive assessment to demonstrate RED II compliance

The European Directive (EU) 2018/2001 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources (also known as RED II) has become effective from 1 July 2021. This directive also contains sustainability criteria as set out in Articles 29(2) to (7) and (10), greenhouse gas emissions savings thresholds as set out in Article 25(2), and mass balance system requirements as set out in Articles 30(1) and 30(2). Economic operators active in the field of biofuels, bioliquids and/or biomass fuels (solid and gaseous biomass) shall comply with the aforementioned legal requirements.

Better Biomass has received a positive technical assessment from the European Commission. This means that economic operators with a Better Biomass certificate can demonstrate that they comply with the relevant RED II requirements, so that their biofuels, bioliquids or biomass fuels qualify for being taken into account in determining the (national) renewable energy target. To date, the European Commission doesn’t officially recognize voluntary schemes in the framework of Directive (EU) 2018/2001 pending finalizing the Implementing Act on rules to verify sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions saving criteria and low indirect land-use change-risk criteria (expected by the end of 2021). Meanwhile economic operators can use Better Biomass to remain legal compliant.

Better Biomass will initiate a full revision process of its scheme by incorporating the Interpretation Document in the related scheme documents (i.e. NTA 8080-1, NTA 8080-2 and NCS 8080) to enhance user-friendliness and practicability, and by reviewing the (non-legal) sustainability criteria to promote high-end valorization of biobased raw materials as part of the deployment of the (circular) bioeconomy and in support of the ‘Fit for 55’ climate package.

Interpretation document Nr 6 published in view of RED II

The European Directive (EU) 2018/2001 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources (also known as RED II) has become effective from 1 July 2021. This directive supersedes Directive 2009/28/EC (also known as RED I) and Directive (EU) 2015/1513 (also known as ILUC Directive). Organisations operating within the framework of RED II shall comply with the sustainability criteria set out in Articles 29(2) to (7) and (10), the greenhouse gas emissions savings thresholds set out in Article 25(2), and the mass balance system set out in Articles 30(1) and 30(2) in Directive (EU) 2018/2001 from that date.

Better Biomass, together with several other voluntary schemes, is in the process to become recognised by the European Commission to demonstrate compliance with the aforementioned legal requirements. As part of this recognition process, Better Biomass has updated the scheme documents, particularly its Interpretation document addressing the interpretations reflecting the RED II requirements and the related conformity assessment activities. Interpretation document Nr 6 has been published on 1 July 2021 to support Better Biomass certificate holders to become ‘RED II proof’. Better Biomass certificate holders have received a communication about this, which includes an impact assessment of RED II. As Better Biomass is mainly used by organisations that collect, process, trade and / or valorise residues and waste, the impact is considered limited in most cases.

Better Biomass is close to finalise the technical assessment as part of the recognition process. The last outstanding issues will be addressed in Interpretation document Nr 7. After concluding this technical assessment, the full package of scheme documents will be submitted to the European Commission to initiate the formal recognition. In parallel, Better Biomass will initiate the formal revision procedure for NTA 8080-1:2015, NTA 8080-2:2015 and NCS 8080:2018-08 in which the last version of the Interpretation document will be integrated in these scheme documents. This integration will improve the unambiguity of the requirements and enhance the applicability of the scheme documents. The revision will also address the other sustainability aspects that are not covered by RED II as well as other applications like bio-based materials and products and cascading to support high-end valorisation options. Interested parties to join this revision process can indicate their interest by sending an e-mail to info@betterbiomass.com.

Updated Better Biomass scheme documents approved in framework of SDE+ subsidy scheme

The Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy has approved the updated Better Biomass scheme documents in the framework of the Decree conformity assessment of solid biomass for energy applications. This approval applies to all biomass categories and has as global coverage.

The updated scheme documents concern Interpretation document N⁰ 5 and NEN Scheme management manual version 7.1. With the approval of Interpretation document N⁰ 5, the issue with respect to cross-referencing between the NTA 8003:2017 classification of biomass and the biomass categories used in aforementioned decree has been resolved by replacing the cross-reference table with a reference to “Leidraad biomassa classificeren: categorieën en NTA 8003 codes binnen de SDE+ – Handreiking voor energieproducenten en conformiteitsbeoordelingsinstanties”, which contains decision trees and provides links to the classification applied in NTA 8003:2017. Attached is a version of Interpretation document N⁰ 5 marking the changes compared to the previous version. Furthermore, NEN Scheme management has updated their general procedures to conform to the requirements in NTA 8813:2017, Requirements for development and management of conformity assessment schemes by independent scheme owners [in Dutch].

Better Biomass can be used as certification scheme to demonstrate compliance with the Dutch sustainability criteria for solid biomass for energy applications as agreed within the Dutch Energy Agreement. This proof of compliance is important to qualify for the subsidy scheme ‘SDE+’. More information about this subsidy scheme is available at the website of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl).

Exemption rules for NEN schemes in connection with Corona

As a result of measures taken by governments and organizations worldwide to curb the spread of the coronavirus, not all conformity assessment activities can proceed as planned for a period of time. The manner in which the Dutch Accreditation Council (RvA) deals with the current situation is described in document RvA-T051, which is in accordance with IAF ID3:2011.

NEN applies the rules of RvA-T051 (version 3, last update: 2020-03-22) for the schemes under its management. The rules apply to both schemes that are carried out under RvA accreditation and to schemes where this is not (yet) the case. This document contains a summary and explanation of these rules. Where necessary, for specific schemes, the rules are supplemented with additional process agreements. The rules apply as long as the measures related to the coronavirus as taken by governments and organizations are in place with a maximum period of six months. After this period, new rules will be introduced, if necessary.

Definition of extraordinary circumstances

The definition used in document RvA-T051 and IAF ID3:2011 is the following:

Extraordinary event or circumstance

A circumstance beyond the control of the organization, commonly referred to as “Force Majeure” or “act of God”. Examples are war, strike, riot, political instability, geopolitical tension, terrorism, crime, pandemic, flooding, earthquake, malicious computer hacking, other natural or man-made disasters.
(Source: IAF ID 3:2011)

Exemption rules

Initial certification and scope extensions

During the period in which normal working methods, including (practical) exams and on-site auditing, are not possible due to extraordinary events or circumstances, a full initial certification or scope extension is only possible if the conformity assessment activities can be carried out fully and properly.

Recertification and surveillance audits

If a recertification or surveillance audit cannot be carried out or cannot be fully carried out as a result of the measures, the deadline for completing the issuing of the new certificate or the surveillance audit may be postponed within a period up to six months at the maximum. This will give conformity assessment bodies the opportunity to postpone audits, (practical) exams and, if relevant, site visits. The following requirements apply for granting an extension:

  • Postponement is only permitted temporarily, as long as the regulation in this document is effective and if there is really no other option.
  • NEN shall be informed about the granted extension for each certificate holder concerned to maintain the certificate register.
  • The deferral period is kept to a minimum and recertification or surveillance audits should be scheduled as soon as possible once relaxation of the measures allows this.
  • In the case of recertification, the initial date of validity of the certificate shall be taken to extend the validity of the new certificate with a new term. The validity of this new certificate will therefore be shorter.
  • In the case of a surveillance audit, the terms for the next surveillance audit will be unchanged, i.e. they remain linked to the date of issue of the certificate, which can result in a faster sequence of surveillance audits.
  • If the 6-month deferral period is exceeded, the certificate will expire.

Alternative audit methods

Remote assessment

NEN can give permission to allow remote assessment for certification schemes where remote assessment (or remote auditing) is not standard practice. In that case, remote assessment is only permitted temporarily, as long as this regulation is effective and if there is really no other option.

The requirements of IAF MD 4:2018 apply to conducting remote assessments, with the following (additional) requirements:

  • The organization subject to the remote assessment shall agree in advance including about how the assessment will be carried out.
  • NEN shall be informed about the intention of a conformity assessment body to carry out remote assessments for a specific scheme.
  • The remote assessments should be carried in accordance with the original audit programme wherever possible.
  • Observations of locations and / or (behaviour of) operational employees / activities cannot be carried out remotely.
  • Interviews of functions where (behavioural) observation are not relevant, for example “office functions” such as management, HR, calculation, can be carried out remotely.
  • The interview shall take place through a secure connection, such as MS Teams or Skype, where there is both an audio and a video connection, so that the auditor(s) and the auditee can clearly hear and see each other regarding verbal and non-verbal communication.
  • The conformity assessment body shall keep a complete record of actions and deviations from the established certification programme, together with the justification of the decisions about the actions taken. In the case a scheme is not under supervision of the RvA, this information shall be made available to NEN for inspection upon request.

Exemption rules for ‘RED compliance’

The European Commission has informed all owners of recognised voluntary schemes within the framework of Directive 2009/28/EC about the following:

By recertification audits, we specifically mean audits following requests for renewal of certification in the case when an economic operator has already been certified under the voluntary scheme to which the request is addressed but the certificate has recently expired [expired from the 1st of March 2020]/ or is due to expire soon. By surveillance audits, we specifically mean scheduled audits that are carried out between the date of initial audit and the date of the end of validity of the certificate.

Due to the exceptional circumstances resulting from the COVID19 outbreak, we have extended the possibility for recertification and surveillance audits to be conducted remotely by certification bodies if this is possible. This is valid for all regions word-wide. We will allow this exception until the 1st of July 2020. If remote audits are themselves not possible, for instance due to unavailability of auditors, then we will accept the extension of the validity of certificates expired since the 1st of March 2020 up to and including the 1st of July 2020.

After the 1st of July 2020, certification bodies will be required to complement remote audits conducted during the period up to that date with the on-site audits that would have normally been carried out, or to conduct audits (in the case when no audits could be conducted) in line with the usual requirements, within a period of three months.

We will continue to review the situation in due course.

More information

For more information about these exceptions, send an e-mail to schemabeheer@nen.nl. For other information about scheme management, visit nen.nl/certificatie (in Dutch).

Better Biomass contributes to Webinar CO2 performance of bioenergy

The Dutch association for bio-energy, Platform Bio-Energie, will organise its first webinar on 27 March 2020. Theme of this webinar is CO2 performance of bioenergy. The determination of the CO2 performance is an important aspect to assess the sustainability of biomass. When valorising biomass for energy applications, a significant saving of greenhouse gas emissions compared to the fossil reference shall be accomplished to qualify for sustainable biomass.

Jarno Dakhorst, Better Biomass scheme manager, is one of the contributors to this webinar. He will give an explanation about the greenhouse gas calculation methodologies within the Better Biomass scheme and the chain-of-custody requirements with respect to CO2 related information, to ensure that the end user can calculate the overall CO2 performance to assess whether this meets the minimum requirements for sustainably produced biomass.

More information about this webinar is available at the website of Platform Bio-Energie (in Dutch).

Better Biomass as first certification scheme fully approved concerning SDE+ subsidy for bioenergy

The Better Biomass certification scheme has now been fully approved in the framework of the Dutch Decree conformity assessment of solid biomass for energy applications. This approval is applicable to all five biomass categories that are distinguished, and applies for the global use of the ‘Better Biomass certified’ claim. Better Biomass is the first certification scheme with full coverage. With this approval, the market has access to a robust certification scheme to independently demonstrate the sustainable origin and utilisation of biomass for energy applications. This is also important for economic operators that have been granted or will apply for the SDE+ subsidy and have to demonstrate they comply with the legal sustainability requirements.

The Decree and the related Regulation conformity assessment of solid biomass for energy applications include the sustainability, chain-of-custody and governance requirements that need to be covered in certification schemes. This set of requirements was the result of the Dutch Energy Agreement (2013) and are adopted by the SDE+ subsidy scheme for renewable energy production. When using biomass for co-firing of biomass in coal-fired power plants, in boilers ≥ 5 MW steam from wood pellets, in wood pellets fired boilers ≥ 5 MWth and ≤ 100 MWe, or in wood pellets fired boiler for district heating, companies have to demonstrate that they comply with the legal requirements by means of certification and/or verification to qualify for SDE+ subsidy.

Scope of approval

The Regulation distinguishes five biomass categories, ranging from biomass from (sustainably managed) forests to residues and waste from industry. The sustainability requirements that are applicable depend on the biomass category. In November 2018, Better Biomass already received approval for all biomass categories and for all but one sustainability requirements. One element concerning the declaration that an organisation has been assessed to the definition of protected species as laid down in the Regulation would need to make more explicit. Better Biomass has successfully updated its scheme documents to close this short-coming.

With this full approval, biomass producers from all over the world can bring their products with a Better Biomass certificate to Dutch market for the production of bioenergy. Better Biomass is not only applicable to solid biomass, but also to liquid and gaseous biomass for biofuels, power and or heat production and bio-based products. In this way, the biomass producer has more flexibility to market its products under a harmonised set of sustainability requirements.

Better Biomass has published updated classification of biomass

Better Biomass uses the standard NTA 8003 to classify the biomass categories that may be considered residual flow (also referred to ‘residues and waste’). Residual flows have only to comply with a subset of sustainability requirements based on a risk-based approach (e.g. no [indirect] land-use change), which make them a suitable biomass source for energy applications and bio-based products. The classification of biomass is addressed in NTA 8080-1:2015, Annex D by referring to NTA 8003:2008. Meanwhile, this edition has been superseded by NTA 8003:2017. The current edition of NTA 8003 has introduced several new biomass categories whilst other biomass categories have been removed or amended, responding to market developments.

From 1 January 2019, also authorities make use of NTA 8003:2017 instead of NTA 8003:2008. For this reason as well, it was concluded that the Better Biomass scheme documents needed to be updated. In Interpretation document N° 4, published on 1 April 2019, the classification in accordance with NTA 8003:2017 has been introduced. The revised categorisation has been discussed at a stakeholders meeting and has been approved by the Better Biomass scheme management committee. Input for the stakeholders meeting was an impact assessment, highlighting the changes and possible consequences. At this meeting it was agreed to make this impact assessment also publicly available. NTA 8003:2017 is available free of charge through the website of NEN (in Dutch only).

Better Biomass certificate holders assessed within the framework of Directive 2009/28/EC (Renewable Energy Directive) or ‘Regeling conformiteitsbeoordeling vaste biomassa voor energietoepassingen’ (Dutch regulation dealing with conformity assessment of sustainable biomass for energy applications) have to comply with the biomass categorisation as laid down in the regulation concerned. The Interpretation document includes informative cross-references matrices to link the legal classification with the classification in accordance with NTA 8003:2017.

Better Biomass also receives approval for issuing proof of non-modification of processing

Waste and residues are often used as raw material for the production of biofuels. Biofuels have to comply with European legal sustainability requirements as laid down in the “Renewable Energy Directive”. Better Biomass is one of the recognized certification schemes to demonstrate compliance with these sustainability requirements. If the biofuel is produced from non-agricultural, aquaculture, fishery or forestry waste and residues, the sustainability system shall also demonstrate that the verification of non-deliberate modification of production processes is part of the conformity assessment activity. The Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management has assessed Better Biomass in this respect and decided to approve this sustainability system for issuing proof of the absence of deliberate modification of production processes.

Promoting use of residual flows

The “Renewable Energy Directive” includes an annex with raw materials that are classified as waste or residue (also known as Annex IX). The energy content of these materials counts twice to achieve the target of the share of renewable energy for transport (10 % in 2020). Furthermore, the use of waste and residues is promoted to prevent the use of food crops. Because of these benefits, it might be attractive for companies to deliberately produce more of these materials. For this reason, sustainability systems are expected to ensure that production processes are not deliberately modified.

Better Biomass also assesses whether raw materials that are classified as residual flow meet the definition of residual flow. This definition includes the non-deliberate modification of production processes. The sustainability system also contains specific rules for the certification bodies that assess companies. With a positive assessment, the company receives a Better Biomass certificate. The proof of absence of deliberate modification of production processes is stated with Better Biomass by a declaration on the certificate and in (the summary of) the audit report.

Renewable energy units

In the Netherlands, economic operators that deliver biofuels to the Dutch market must book the volumes in the registry administered by the Dutch Emission Authority (NEa). The economic operator receives renewable energy units (HBE) for the booked biofuels. The required HBEs are increasing annually with a growing target for the share of renewable energy. The NEa distinguishes three types of HBEs, which are linked to the nature of the raw materials. The economic value of an HBE can differ per type. The HBE obtained from the use of advanced biofuels is based on the materials in Annex IX. An economic operator can only receive such HBEs if it has a proof of absence of deliberate modification of production processes.

Meet NEN at World Bio Markets 2019

NEN is Bronze Sponsor of the 14th annual World Bio Markets – the leading assembly for the bio-based economy. This assembly will take place at the Passenger Terminal in Amsterdam (NL) from 1 to 3 April 2019. NEN will have a stand and will moderate a round table in the session ‘Building a bio-based industry’.

NEN is not only scheme manager of Better Biomass certification, but also of Bio-based content certification that enables independent assessment of claims about the bio-based content of products to facilitate both business to business and business to consumer communication. Moreover, NEN has leading positions in European standardisation in the field of bio-based products (CEN/TC 411), algae and algae products (CEN/TC 454) and sustainability criteria for biomass (CEN/TC 383) as well as in international standardisation in the field of chain of custody (ISO/PC 308). Furthermore, NEN is involved in several (European) pre- and co-normative research projects aiming at fostering innovation and market introductions to accelerate the (circular) bio-economy.

Attendees of World Bio Markets 2019 have the opportunity to meet NEN colleagues to learn more about how standardisation and certification can boost their business. Also during the round table session entitled “Shaping the bio-based economy: fostering innovation and market introductions with standardisation and certification tools” we will interact with the participants on these building blocks. We look forward to meeting you and to building strategic partnerships.

More about the round table session

Established companies are shifting from fossil-based to bio-based materials in their production processes, whilst start-ups and spin-offs introduce innovative products, services and technologies supporting the bio-based economy. Several public and/or private research, development and demonstration projects provide useful results needed for scaling up new technologies and production processes to increase the share of bio-based materials in the overall use of raw materials. Standardisation is an efficient and proven concept to support sectors with their innovations and accelerating market introductions. Standardisation provides a common language, enhance cost effectiveness through standardised procedures and ensuring interoperability, and addresses health, safety and environmental aspects as part of the (social) licence to operate. Certifications deliver independent assessments of conformity with specific standards, which enable credible and transparent communication about certain aspects of bio-based products, both business-to-business and business-to-consumer. NEN is involved in pre-/co-normative research projects, and in developing and managing standards and certification schemes. With these activities, NEN has access to a large and diverse network of experts around the globe. During this roundtable session we will discuss in which way standardisation and certification can support your bio-based activities. We invite attendees of World Bio Markets 2019 to identify barriers they encounter in their activities to move forward in the transition towards the (circular) bio-based economy. Together with peers we will try to tackle these barriers, for example by determining needs for standardisation or certification. Success stories are also welcome for inspiration and lessons learned. Your take away of this roundtable session will be a better equipped tools box to make your business (even) more successful.