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Amendments to the burning of native forest biomaterials: questions and answers

1. What does the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Amendment (Native Forest Bio-material) Regulation change?

The Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Amendment (Native Forest Bio-material) Regulation 2013 (the Regulation) changes the definition of ‘native forest biomaterial’ to allow two additional materials to be used in electricity generation.

2. What materials can now be used to generate electricity?

Invasive native species and biomaterial from native forestry operations can now also be burnt to generate electricity.

Invasive native species

The Regulation states that invasive native species can be used in electricity generation if they are:

  • obtained from trees cleared in accordance with property vegetation plans that have been approved under Part 4 of the Native Vegetation Act 2003 after an assessment under chapter 7 of the assessment methodology (within the meaning of the Native Vegetation Regulation 2013)
  • obtained from trees cleared in accordance with a declaration relating to invasive species by an order under clause 38 of the Native Vegetation Regulation 2013 (and, if the order is subject to any conditions, in accordance with those conditions).

This means invasive native species cleared in line with a property vegetation plan under the Native Vegetation Act 2003 or an invasive species order under the Native Vegetation Regulation 2013 can be used for electricity generation.

Biomaterial from native forestry operations

The Regulation states that native forestry biomaterial can be used in electricity generation if it is:

  • obtained from pulp wood logs, heads and off-cuts resulting from clearing carried out in accordance with a private native forestry property vegetation plan approved under Part 4 of the Native Vegetation Act 2003 or forestry operations carried out in accordance with an integrated forestry operations approval under Part 5B of the Forestry Act 2012
  • obtained from trees cleared as a result of thinning carried out in accordance with a private native forestry property vegetation plan approved under Part 4 of the Native Vegetation Act 2003 or an integrated forestry operations approval under Part 5B of the Forestry Act 2012.

This means that any pulp wood logs, heads and off-cuts, and trees thinned in line with a private native forestry property vegetation plan or integrated forestry operations approval can be used in electricity generation.

The Regulation does not allow logs that meet the standard for sawlogs, other higher quality products, and any part of a dead tree to be used in electricity generation.

3. Will this change mean more clearing and logging?

No. This Regulation has been designed to ensure there is no increase in the intensity of clearing or logging. Clearing of these biomaterials is already being done under existing approvals.

As a result of these changes, the Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) will keep detailed records of the volumes, types and locations of where this biomaterial comes from. Electricity operators will have to keep detailed records of the amount of biomaterial they receive and burn. More information on these reporting operators is available here. The EPA will conduct regular audits of all this information, including using satellite imagery where appropriate to ensure environmental values are not compromised.

The information reported by the FCNSW will be benchmarked back to 1 July 2010 for the area data and 1 July 2004 for the volume data. This information will be updated annually.

4. What is a forestry operation under the Regulation?

Forestry operations under the Regulation are:

  • forestry operations that occur in State forests in line with an integrated forestry operations approval under the Forestry Act 2012
  • forestry operations that occur on private land in line with a private native forestry property vegetation plan.

5. Who will regulate these changes?

The EPA and the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) regulate forestry operations and the clearing of native vegetation, respectively. Both will work with private landholders, the FCNSW, and clearing and logging contractors to ensure the new arrangements are clear, understood and complied with.

All electricity generators are required to keep records of native forest biomaterial they buy and use. The EPA has updated the record-keeping guidelines (130811GLBioBurn.pdf, 77KB) shortly which help electricity generators to understand their record keeping obligations. The EPA will monitor these record-keeping requirements across all facilities to ensure the intention of the Regulation is met.

6. Does local government regulate small-scale electricity generators?

Yes. The EPA regulates electricity generators who have the capacity to generate more than 200 kilowatts of electricity. Local government is responsible for regulating small electricity generators. The EPA will work with local councils to ensure the new arrangements are clear and understood. The EPA, however, will be responsible for monitoring compliance with all facilities’ record-keeping requirements.

7. How does the proposal fit with existing NSW Government policy?

The NSW Government is encouraging an increase in investment in renewable energy in the State. Goal 22.3 in NSW 2021: A plan to make NSW number one aims to achieve 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020, which is consistent with national targets.

The NSW Government has developed a Renewable Energy Action Plan (REAP) to support the achievement of this target. Key actions will include:

  • creating a supportive policy and regulatory environment
  • promoting investment opportunities in NSW
  • supporting community-owned renewable energy projects.

Actions in the REAP include considering:

  • the use of invasive native species and debris from native forestry activities as a source of bio-energy production
  • removing technology-specific barriers to create a supportive policy and regulatory environment for investment, including reviewing the opportunity for using bio-energy for co-firing purposes.

The Regulation is consistent with these proposed policy objectives and actions.

8. What other reforms does the NSW Government have planned for native forest logging?

The Government is remaking the integrated forestry operations approvals in coastal NSW after which it will undertake a major review of the Private Native Forestry Code of Practice. These reviews will not erode environmental values and will continue to deliver a balance between maintaining environmental values and ensuring a sustainable timber supply.

9. Can I use native forest biomaterial or invasive native species obtained from a different state or territory for electricity-generating works in NSW?

No. The amendments do not cover biomaterial or invasive native species from other states or territories. Only biomaterial obtained under NSW legislation can be used in electricity generating works in NSW. NSW legislative policies include private native forestry property vegetation plans, invasive native species property vegetation plans, and integrated forestry operations approvals.

Page last updated: 24 March 2014