Frequently asked quesions


What is the Sustainable Biomass Program?

The Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP) is a unique certification scheme designed for woody biomass, mostly in the form of wood pellets and wood chips, used in industrial, large scale energy production. It exists primarily to enable these users of biomass to demonstrate that the biomass is both legally and sustainably sourced and that it meets the regulatory requirements of each European end user, including the ability to collect and report on energy and carbon balance calculations for the full supply chain.

What are the aims of the SBP?

The SBP’s primary aim is to develop standards, structures and processes, together known as the SBP Framework, enabling users and producers of solid biomass for energy production to demonstrate compliance with regulatory, including sustainability, requirements.

The SBP also aims to promote enhanced sustainable forest management and greater uptake of existing efficient and internationally recognised, third-party-verified forest certification schemes in key forest source areas or wood baskets.

Why is the SBP needed?

There is limited uptake of forest-level certification schemes, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and national standards endorsed by the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), in some key forest source areas (or wood baskets) for woody biomass. In addition, the schemes themselves do not yet cover all the regulatory requirements that users of biomass for energy production must meet, for example, complex issues such as cascading use of wood, indirect land use change and carbon accounting.

Therefore, SBP is working to develop solutions, short-term and long-term, to address both these issues and is in discussion with both schemes on how these challenges might be overcome.

What will the SBP actually do and by when?

The SBP has developed the SBP Framework which incorporates four areas of certification, namely: certification of the feedstock; chain of custody certification (according to FSC and PEFC schemes); certification of energy and carbon data collection and carriage throughout the supply chain; and certification of the energy and carbon balance calculations. Following a consultation on draft standards, the SBP Framework Version 0.0 was released in September 2014 as a ‘beta version’ for final testing allowing for refinements to the standards and the development of Version 1.0, which was launched on 26 March 2015.

SBP will undertake further revision and refinement of its standards in line with regulatory requirements.

Which data will be collected and made available? Does the SBP Framework cover carbon accounting?

The SBP Framework provides for the collection and carriage of energy and carbon data throughout the biomass supply chain. Furthermore, the Framework enables the calculation of energy and carbon savings achieved by burning biomass in place of fossil fuel sources.

Data on biomass flows will be made available in aggregated form. Information on the supply base evaluation of each certified Biomass Producer will be publicly available.

SBP recognises the importance of emerging topics, such as carbon accounting and cascading use of wood, and that more information is needed on these emerging topics. The data collected and the energy and carbon balance calculations will, over time, help to build up a useful picture of the feedstock characteristics.

What are the success criteria for the SBP?

To have global applicability in terms of the feedstock used for wood pellet or chip production and to enable the demonstration of compliance with regulatory requirements by users and producers of biomass for energy production.

Which organisations are members of SBP?

Today, SBP has seven members: DONG Energy, Drax, EON, ENGIE, HOFOR, RWE and Vattenfall.

Which organisations are eligible to join the SBP?

Any user of biomass for large scale, industrial energy production is eligible to join the SBP, but the SBP Framework is available to any interested party on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. Currently, SBP makes no charge for certification to its Framework, although it is proposed to introduce fees from 1 October 2016. Once approved, Certification Bodies ensure a free market in the provision of certification services.

Compliance and oversight

How is SBP governed?

Currently the SBP is governed by a Board made up of representatives from each of its member companies. An independent Advisory Board provides the Board with advice on the strategic direction of SBP, the credibility of the SBP Framework, and technical and public policy issues.

Importantly, certification and technical decisions as well as the handling of appeals and complaints are made independently of SBP member companies through an independent technical committee.

How is SBP ensuring that the voice of stakeholders is taken into account?

Efforts are being made at all levels within SBP to engage with a range of stakeholder groups. These efforts include supply chain and expert representation on Committees and Working Groups, consultation on Standards revision and all applications for SBP certification.

Why isn’t the SBP already a multi-stakeholder initiative?

In 2013, the need for a tool to demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements was urgent, due to the imminent implementation of regulatory requirements, and an industry initiative was the most pragmatic and timely solution to that challenge. However, in October 2016, the SBP Board stated its intention to transform SBP into a multi-stakeholder organisation and work commenced on the governance transition process. Read more about the process here.

Who is responsible for ensuring the compliance of companies with the agreed sustainability criteria? Can sanctions be imposed on those that are not compliant?

Regulators and/or national governments set the regulatory requirements and it is for the regulated companies themselves to demonstrate compliance. The SBP Framework is a tool to demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements. The feedstock and chain of custody claims are certified by independent, third-party Certification Bodies. Non-compliance will lead to suspension and subsequent termination of certification, as is the case with FSC and PEFC already.