These criteria will ensure that projects with strong ecological protections and high carbon savings can only be backed under the Renewables Obligation (RO) and count towards renewable energy targets.

Commenting on the biomass power criteria, REA Chief Executive Nina Skorupska said that these sustainability criteria ensure that the UK can reap the benefits of biomass, safe in the knowledge that it is making a real dent in carbon emissions and that ecologically sensitive land is being protected.

"Biomass power can help bridge the energy gap because it is affordable, helps to meet base load power needs and is relatively quick to build. It can also help economic recovery by creating jobs in construction and the ongoing operation of the plants.

"CHP is an excellent use of the resource but it is not feasible in sites where there is no user for the heat load. The Government will have serious regrets down the line if it excludes the construction of dedicated biomass power plants from the new regime," added Skorupska.

The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change stated that the biomass electricity will produce over 70% greenhouse gas savings compared to fossil fuel alternatives, under changes made by government to ensure the sustainability of wood-fuel used to create energy.