Sustainability criteria for solid biomass

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In order to safeguard the sustainability of biomass, a system of assessment and control is in place. Subsidy recipients need to demonstrate that their biomass supply is sustainable by using either one of two methods:

  • certification schemes approved by the Minister, or
  • third party verification.

Both certification and third party verification require an independent Conformity Assessment Body (recognised by the Minister). Its task is to declare that the biomass complies with the sustainability requirements and is thereby eligible for the SDE+ subsidy. For the verification procedure, the Conformity Assessment Bodies use the Verification Protocol published by the Minister. The Minister may consult an independent advisory committee on the approval of certification schemes.

Transition period until new legislation is in force

The legal framework for the system is still in development. A transition period is in place until the new legislation enters into force. There is a procedure for companies which are required to demonstrate sustainability of the biomass before the end of the transition period in order to obtain an SDE+ subsidy. They can use a number of temporarily approved certification schemes and the currently available Verification Protocol, which is specifically designed for the transition period. The certification schemes for the transition period are stated in the Letter to Parliament of March 18, 2016. These have been incorporated into the currently temporally operative Verification Protocol for the transition period.

Qualifications for Conformity Assessment Bodies are stated in the currently operative Verification Protocol, as companies will not yet be working with recognised Conformity Assessment Bodies during the transition period.

Certification, verification and legal assurance

Information on certification, verification and legal assurance can be reviewed in the Letter to Parliament by the Minister 'Kamerbrief over implementatie duurzaamheidscriteria vaste biomassa voor energietoepassingen' of 18-03-2016 (in Dutch).


The Energy Agreement stipulates that SDE+ subsidies will be used to promote a maximum of 25 PJ of renewable energy per year from co-gasification and co-firing of biomass in coal-fired power stations. This is important to achieve the Dutch targets of 14% renewable energy in 2020 and 16% in 2023 as part of EU-wide agreements.

An important condition in the Energy Agreement is the sustainable nature of the biomass to be used. This condition also applies to SDE+ subsidy applications for the use of wood pellets in large industrial steam boilers. It does not apply to others receiving SDE+ subsidies.

Sustainability requirements

A working group composed of energy companies, environmental organisations and the government has developed the arrangements of the Energy Agreement into concrete sustainability requirements. Since 2015, these sustainability requirements for solid biomass have been incorporated into the legal framework of the SDE+ regulation. They  have since undergone a number of minor adjustments. The sustainability requirements will be incorporated into environmental legislation by the beginning of 2018.

The Energy Agreement, among others, prescribes the incorporation of requirements for sustainable forest management (soil, biodiversity and so on), the prevention of negative effects of carbon debt, and Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC). In addition, the use of biomass needs to result in a drastic reduction of CO2 emissions as compared to the use of fossil energy.

Appointment of the Verification Protocol

The Verification Protocol stipulates how Forest Management Units, biomass producers and energy companies will be able to demonstrate through verification that they comply with sustainability requirements. Conformity Assessment Bodies use the protocol to assess whether companies comply with sustainability requirements.

The draft Verification Protocol was developed by in 2016. This draft was presented through a webinar in the spring of 2016 and was then reviewed through internet consultation. After processing the findings from the consultation, the modified concept was used to conduct a number of field tests during the summer of 2016. The  findings from the field tests have resulted in the current version of the protocol. This version is valid until the Minister will appoint the definitive Verification Protocol in the new legislation.

Approval of certification schemes

Presently, the Minister has not yet approved any certification schemes. Such approval can only take place after the entry into force of the legal framework. An independent advisory committee, the Advisory Committee on the Sustainability of Biomass for Energy Applications (Adviescommissie Duurzaamheid Biomassa voor Energietoepassingen), will assess to what extent certification schemes comply with the sustainability requirements laid down by law.

Certification scheme managers who want to be considered for approval can already request a provisional application form at This enables the committee to start formulating its recommendation (please read the explanatory notes in the model application form below). After approval of the certification schemes this RVO website will also contain a list of the schemes approved by the Minister. For more information on the procedure of scheme application and approval, please visit the advisory committee's website: (in Dutch).

Recognition of Conformity Assessment Bodies

Under the new legislation, certificates of approved certification schemes and verification statements may only be issued by Conformity Assessment Bodies recognised by the Minister. To this end, Conformity Assessment Bodies can submit an application for recognition with RVO.

Transition period2016 until entry into force of new legislation, expected to be in early 2018
Spring 2017Publication of Verification Protocol specifically designed for the transition period

Spring 2017

Applications for approval of certification schemes to be submitted by scheme managers

Autumn 2017

Launch of SDE+ autumn round

Early 2018Entry into force of the new legal framework Decree on the conformity assessment of solid biomass for energy applications (Besluit conformiteitsbeoordeling vaste biomassa voor energietoepassingen) and the underlying Ministerial Decree
Early 2018First expected approval of schemes by the Minister

Early 2018

Publication of definitive Verification Protocol

Early 2018

Conformity Assessment Bodies to apply for recognition

Disclaimer: schedule and contents of schedule are subject to change

After your application: Reporting biomass sustainability

Companies that have received a subsidy decision regarding energy production from biomass used for the SDE+ categories “Firing and co-firing of biomass in Dutch coal-fired power stations” and “Industrial boiler steam from wood pellets” need to demonstrate the sustainability of the biomass. They can download the formats and guidelines from section “Rapporteren duurzaamheid biomassa” on Stimulering Duurzame Energieproductie SDE (Dutch only).


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