Proceeding of permits


The proceedings of permit will be documented separately for wood combustion plants and biogas plants, but both have the same basis. In Belgium every project for building a business premise of noisy or noxious trade has to obtain two important permits: an environmental permit and a building permit. Since 1st January 2010 these two permits can be applied for at the same place.

Environmental permit [OAVM 2014, VLM 2014]

The VLAREM I legislation states the conditions for which type of business permits or notifications are required. An environmental permit integrates different kind of permits like an exploitation permit, license for maximum admissible discharges, license for the destruction of toxic waste, license to dispose waste etc.

The full procedure is described in the VLAREM 2 legislation and divides businesses premise of noisy or noxious trade into three classes. Businesses with a large polluting potential are classified under class 1. Those in class 2 are less troublesome, and those in class 3 the least. Class 1 businesses have to file an application for a permit with the province, whereas class 2 businesses have to do so with the college of Aldermen. Class 3 businesses do not have to apply for a permit, only a notification is required. All the possible types of businesses of noisy or noxious state are described in different sections.

The micro scale digesters that are currently placed in Belgium are categorised in Class III. There is only a notification requirement which makes it easy to acquire. The notification is an announcement of a change in the production process in section 9 of Vlarem III.

Building permit [OAVM 2014, VLM 2014]

Larger project with significant impact who are obliged to make an environmental effect study or need two or more advices have to make a project study and apply for a project meeting.

The fermentation tank and digestate storage need a building permit. The underground needs a hardening and the installation must be easily adapted to future expansions.


  • digester is built according to the rules of good workmanship
  • under the supervision and according to the guidelines of an architect or civil engineer, architect or civil engineer or an industrial engineer in architecture
  • for installations licensed from July 1, 2014, after completion of construction, a certificate issued by the aforementioned expert delivered showing that the works were carried out according to the rules of good workmanship
  • certificate is kept available for inspection by the regulator.

Local municipalities form the authority if farmers or companies apply for approval of installation of micro scale biogas plants.

An on farm plant would normally be recognized as a part of the agricultural business, and would not in general cause any problems. However a so-called screening for optional environmental impacts has to be carried out and sometimes also a specific estimation of environmental impacts has to be elaborated, which is both costly and time consuming. This is normally seen by larger plants.

The project must comply with the regulations in the below legal documents:

  • Planloven (lov nr. 553 af 1. Juni 2011)
  • Miljøbeskyttelsesloven (bekendtgørelse 1640 af 13.12.2006)
  • Naturbeskyttelsesloven (Bekendtgørelse nr. 933 af 24. september 2009
  • Bekendtgørelse om erhvervsmæssigt dyrehold, husdyrhold og ensilage mv, 2014
  • If the plant is due to receive animal biproducts;
    Biproduktforordningen (EF 1774/2002 af 3. Oktober 2002).

The regulatory regime for approval of a biogas plant is described in detail in the publication [Kogebog 2012].

In addition the project must meet the requirements in regulations of safetty in general and work safety. Authorities in this field are Arbejdstilsynet and Sikkerhedsstyrelsen. The below regulations must be met [Eriksen 2011]:

  • Lov om gasinstallationer og installationer i forbindelse med vand-og afløbsledninger, lovbekendtgørelse nr. 988 af 8. december 2003
    • Af §2 stk.1 pkt. 2 fremgår:
      Produktionsanlæg, distributionsledninger og øvrige anlæg til forsyning af gas til de i nr. 1 nævnte gasinstallationer, medmindre gassikkerheden ved disse anlæg er omfattet af lov om arbejdsmiljø.
  • 1674 af 14/12 2006.  Bek. om autorisation og drift af virksomhed som vvs-installatør, vand- og sanitetsmester, godkendt kompetent virksomhed eller kloakmester
  • 1653 af 13/12 2006.  Bek. om personlige faglige kvalifikationer for den teknisk ansvarlige og dennes medarbejdere i autoriserede og godkendte kompetente virksomheder
  • 1046 af 08/12 2003.  Bek. om undtagelser fra krav om autorisation for så vidt angår gas-og vandforsyningsvirksomheder og ejere af afløbsanlæg

Exploitation permit or Environmental permit

An anaerobic digestion plant is an installation classified in conformance with the environmental protection regulation (ICPE). According to the impact intensity on the environment, three regimes can apply: Declaration, Recording and Authorization.

An AD plant is concerned by section 2781 and possibly by the sections 2910-C and 2171

Section 2781: AD plants of non-hazardous waste or raw vegetable material, with the exception of the installations of waste water or urban sewage sludge when they are fermented on their production site

1. Anaerobic Digestion of raw vegetable material, livestock manure, stercoral matter, vegetable waste of food-processing industries Regime
a) Quantity of treated materials being superior or equal to 50 tonne/day Authorization
b) Quantity of treated materials being superior or equal to 30 tonne/day and inferior to 50 tonne/day Recording
c) Quantity of treated materials being inferior to 30 tonne/day Declaration
Anaerobic Digestion of other non-hazardous waste Authorization

Section 2910-C: Combustion with the exception of the installations aimed by the sections 2770 and 2270

C – When the installation consumes exclusively biogas of  the AD plant classified under the section 2781-1 and if the maximal thermal power of the installation is superior to 0,1 MW Regime
When the biogas is produced by an installation submitted to Authorization or by several installations classified in conformance with the section 2781-1 Authorization
When the biogas is produced by only one installation submitted to Recording classified in conformance with the section 2781-1 Recording
When the biogas is produced by only one installation submitted to Declaration classified in conformance with the section 2781-1 Declaration with periodic controls

Section 2171: Deposit of manure, fertilizers and support of culture containing organic matters and not being the appendix of a farm

Deposit superior to 200 m3 Recording

Furthermore, as soon as there is introduction of animal by-products, including  manure and slurry, it is essential to deposit a request for the approval in conformance with  the European regulation (CE) n°1069/2009 of October 21st, 2009, establishing the sanitary rules applicable to the animal by-products not intended for the human consumption. This request must be made with the Prefecture.

Building permit

An AD plant is submitted to a town-planning permit (Building permit). The AD plant can be considered as an industrial plant or as an agricultural plant.

The delivery of the building permit is the Mayor competence, if the municipality has a land use plan or a Local Urbanism Plan. Otherwise, the building permit is instructed by the state.

If the AD plant is exploited and the energy marketed by a farmer or a grouping of majority farmers in a non-trading company and uses raw materials coming for 50 % of the agriculture, this plant can see granting this authorization by dispensation, in agricultural zone of a municipality endowed with a document of town planning either in zone not yet urbanized by a municipality have a Local Urbanism Plan or a Plan in zone not yet urbanized by a municipality submitted to the town planning national regulation,  from then on the requester will have been able to prove the necessity of this equipment for the farm.

The recent regulations modify appreciably the deadlines of build permit instruction : the deadlines are globally increased but the transparency of the procedure is increased. The instruction deadline is fixed to three months by the article R.423-3 of the planning laws but can be carried in six months if some departmental or regional comissions must be consulted.

Let us note that if no decision was sent to the requester in the date of delivery, the permit is tacitly delivered.

Besides, the permit can be disputed by a third with the administration and with the administrative court by appealing in two months following the notification display on the construction site.

In the case of heat sale and creation of a private heat grid, it will be necessary to make an authorization request of occupation of the public domain as well as authorizations request of passage on the private domains.

If the produced energy is mainly resold, the project can be likened to an equipment of collective interest. So the project can be envisaged whatever is the zoning (unless the equipments of collective interest are forbidden or if the nuisances and the constraints which it implies make it incompatible with the existing activities).

The two requests, Exploitation permit and Building permit are linked. It is advisable to deposit the authorization request to exploit in the first one. A receipt of request is then delivered, even if the justification of application for build permit is missing. The master of work can then deposit a complete request of building permit. The confirmation of receipt delivered by the town hall on this occasion must be then transmitted in the prefecture for instruction of the exploitation permit in the next 10 days.

The sanitary application for approval in the case of animal by-products use

As a general rule the sanitary approval in conformance with the regulation (CE) n°1774 / 2002 is required for the AD plants using as raw material, alone or in mixture, animal by-products of category 2 or category 3. In fact, the sanitary approval is required for all the AD plants using animal by-products, included manure.

Animal by-products of category 2 present a risk for the animal health. It is in particular about monogastric animals corpses and about slurry. These by-products can be valued with the aim of certain uses other than the animals food after sterilizing treatments.

Animal by-products of category 3 not presenting sanitary risks and include in particular parts of brought down animals fit for human consumption. These by-products can be used in animal feed and for technical uses. They also understand in the new regulation 1069/2009, waste of cooking and table intended to produce some compost and biogas.

Sanitary approvals is delivered by the prefect of the department, on proposal of the departmental director of the protection of the populations (DDPP).

However for the AD plants using exclusively liquid manure, some milk, colostrum, stercoraceous materials, the approval as establishment of production of biogas is required (article 24.1 g° by the regulation (CE) n°1069 / 2099). In this case the AD plant does not have to meet the requirements regarding transformation of animal by-product (hygienization / pasteurization) as well as the microbiological criteria defined in the regulation (CE) n°0169 / 2009.




Right opening certificate for the feed in tariff

It is a right for the producer of electricity which is formalized by the obtaining of a certificate for the feed in tariff. For it the producer has to send a request case to the prefect of region (DREAL) including elements enumerated in the decree n°2001-410 of May 10th, 2001.

The producer has to sell the entire electricity production, deduction made possibly by the autoconsummate part. However the price of the feed in tariff returns most of the time the autoconsumption not interesting economically.           The request of connecting for the public electricity grid

The request of connecting is necessary for any new installation. It is made with one of the grid managers according to the connecting tension (articles L.342-1 to L.342-12 of the code of the Energy and decree n°2003-588 of June 27th, 2003). Further to the answer of the grid manager to request for the first information of the producer, a detailed connecting study is realized subject to the building permit notification (the technical and financial proposal or PTF) in one lapses of three months.

Once the PTF was accepted by the producer, the later stages for the grid connecting are:

  • The technical agreement of connecting (fix the deadline and the costs of the connecting)
  • The operating agreement (described the exploitation modalities of the works of connecting)
  • The electric feed in tariff contract

Let us indicate that the cost of the connecting stays chargeable to the producer of electricity.

To note that for the plants of the power subordinates or equal in 36 kVA (connecting in low voltage), the agreements are joined into a single contract.


For the approval of biogas plants there have to be considered a lot of laws and orders. These legal demands consider various regulations such as project planning rights, building regulations, protection against pollution regulations, water, nature, waste, fertilizer and hygiene regulations and laws to examine their environmental compatibility. Beside this, the epizootic diseases act laws could play a roll, if there are used animal by-products in the plant. It has to be considered that the action of approval is different for each federal state. The abundance of laws for the approval procedure and the different specific federal state bases clearly show that it is advisable to consult an expert for the approval process [FNR 2013].

For the approval of a biogas plant two procedures can be distinguished: The building regulation procedure or the extensive procedure of the Federal Immission Control Act (Bundesimmssionsschutzgesetz (BImschG)) [FNR 2013]. The main criterion to determine the relevant approval procedure is the annual production rate of raw biogas. Below a threshold of 1.2 Mio. m³/a – which corresponds to an installed electric CHP power of approx. 270 kW – the building permission by the Construction law is sufficient. For small digesters this is the predominant approval procedure.

Each Federal State has its own building regulation (Landesbauordnung) that specifies the actual procedure and the required documents. With the building application the applicant usually hands in documents, maps and drafts concerning:

  • general information on the involved landscape, construction site and its owner
  • architectural drawing including site layout, views and sections of the biogas plant, etc
  • the feedstock for the biogas plant
  • calculations of the expected gas production rate,
  • process description including the gas holder and the CHP unit
  • description of start-up process
  • emission control
  • safety issues (fire safety, worker health and safety)
  • use of digestate
  • precautions for dismantling the plant after end of service life

During the planning process the local power company should be contacted to inform them about the ongoing plans for a biogas plant and to inquire the connection point for the biogas plant to the electricity grid. Since the power companies have to connect renewable energy plants to the grid according to the German EEG an official permit for grid connection is not required.

Further Information

You can find more information on the Biogas Manual (“Leitfaden Biogas”) and in the Bavarian Biogas Manual (“Biogashandbuch Bayern”). Though the latter specifically describes the building permit application in Bavaria, it provides a sound overview and the basic principle is also applicable in other states.

  • Acts and Ordinances:
  • General information:
  • Biogashandbuch Bayern:

The authorisation procedure for the production of electricity from renewable energy sources currently in force was introduced by Legislative Decree No 387/2003, implementing Directive 2001/77/EC. Article 12 of this regulation provides that the construction and operation of electricity production plants powered by renewable sources, and modification, expansion, total or partial reconstruction, and reactivation operations and connected works, as well as those connected to infrastructure essential for the construction and operation of the same plants are subject to a single authorisation. This document concludes a procedure lasting a maximum of 180 days. This value was reduced to 90 day by Legislative Decree No 28/2011.

The main aim of introducing this procedure was the rationalisation and simplification of the authorisation procedure for production plants using renewable sources. In fact, the single authorisation is issued in accordance with the current regulations for the protection of the environment, landscape and historical / artistic heritage within a single procedure in which all the authorities concerned participate. Where necessary, the plant and connected infrastructure must comply with environmental impact assessment regulations.

The single authorisation grants the right to construct and operate the plant in accordance with the approved plans and, where necessary, with the declaration of public interest, necessity and urgency. The single authorisation is in itself a change to the urban planning instrument. The requirements of countryside protection plans remain mandatory.

The authorisation cites any conditions applicable to the construction and operation of the plant; it also defines the procedures to be followed for the rehabilitation of the site once the plant is decommissioned (or, for hydroelectric plants, procedures for fulfilling the obligation to take environmental recovery and reintegration measures).

The single authorisation sets deadlines for the start and end of works, and once these have passed the authorisation ceases to be effective, unless it is extended.

Article 12 of Legislative Decree No 387/2003 provides for a simplified procedure; this simplified procedure applies to plants with a generation capacity below the thresholds indicated in Table 13 included in an annex to Legislative Decree No 387/2003 and reproduced below:

Table: Thresholds for simplified procedure subject to the regulation No 387/2003for certain technologies and plant generation capacity

Technology Threshold (kW)
Wind 60
Solar photovoltaic 20
Hydraulic 100
Biomass 200
Landfill gas, residual gases from purification processes
and biogas

For plants which do not exceed the thresholds indicated above, the enabler simplified procedure requirement applies in accordance with Legislative Decree No 28/2011. A decree from the Ministry for Economic Development, in consultation with the Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea and in agreement with the Unified Conference, could define higher generation capacity thresholds and additional installation site characteristics to which the same commencement notice requirement would apply. The Community Law of 2009 made the Italian Government responsible for extending the use of commencement notices to renewable energy plants with a capacity below 1 MW.

According to the specific type of works to be carried out, some of the authorization procedures indicated in the table above and described in more detail below could also foresee the completion of the environmental impact assessment procedure. More specifically, these are the types of operation covered by Legislative Decree No 152/2006:

Projects subject to environmental impact assessment for which the State is responsible:

  • power plants and other combustion plants with a heating capacity of at least 300 MW
  • off-shore wind power installations
  • hydroelectric power plants with installed capacity greater than 30 MW
  • installations to be used to hold back, regulate and accumulate water in a sustainable way for energy purposes, of a height greater than 10 m or which have a storage volume greater than 100,000 m3
  • overhead electric power lines with nominal operational voltage above 150 kV and longer than 15 km
  • electric power lines in buried AC cables, and longer than 40 km.

Projects subject to environmental impact assessment for which the region is responsible:

  • power plants for the production of electricity, steam and hot water with total heat capacity greater than 150 MW
  • on-shore wind power installations. A representative of the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities must be involved in the procedure for such projects
  • incineration plants for non-hazardous waste, with capacity greater than 100 t/day
  • overhead electric power lines with nominal voltage above 100 kV and longer than 10 km.

Projects subject to applicability screening for which the region is responsible:

  • power plants for the production of electricity, steam and hot water with total heat capacity greater than 50 MW
  • non-thermal industrial installations for the production of electricity, steam and hot water with total capacity greater than 1 MW
  • industrial installations for the transportation of gas, steam and hot water which supply pipes with a total length greater than 20 km
  • wind power installations with total capacity greater than 1 MW
  • hydroelectric power plants with installed capacity greater than 100 kW
  • incineration plants for non-hazardous waste, with total capacity greater than 10 t/day
  • overhead electric power lines with nominal voltage above 100 kV and longer than 3 km.

For the implementation of plans and schemes which may have a significant environmental impact (including, for example, the Electricity Network Development Plan), Legislative Decree No 152/2006 also provides for screening for the applicability of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) defined under Directive 2001/42/EC.


Connection to the electricity network

Legislative Decree No 79/1999, transposing European Directive 96/92/EC, establishes the obligation for distribution companies to connect all parties which request it to their own networks, without compromising the continuity of service.

For renewable energy plants, Legislative Decree No 387/2003, transposing European Directive 2001/77/EC, deals with issues relating to the connection of plants to the electricity network.

For high-efficiency cogeneration plants, the legislative reference for the connection service is Legislative Decree No 20/2007.

The regulation in force (AEEG Decision No ARG/elt 99/08 – Compendium of Rules for Active Connections (TICA)) defines the procedural methods and technical / financial conditions for connection to the electricity networks, with the obligation to connect third-party production plants. With regard to low and medium voltage networks, the TICA specifies connection charges based on the distance from the connection point to the network, the capacity of the connection and the type of connection. These charges only apply to plants using renewable energy sources (RES) and high-efficiency cogeneration (HEC). Conventional plants refer to the conditions published by each operator and must pay the TICA charges or the operator’s charges, whichever is higher.

For connections to high and very high voltage networks, the TICA does not set specific charges but requires the application of a reduction in the payments due for RES and HEC plants.

The contractual terms and conditions (CTCs) for the provision of this service are defined and published by each individual network operator. The CTCs define the conventional technical solutions adopted by the network operator to create the connection, the arrangements and response times, payments terms for the connection charges, and criteria for establishing the charges in order to cover the costs incurred by the network operator in managing the authorisation procedure.

The regulation also covers the resolution of disputes between producers and network operators, specifically relating to the connection of RES plants. Technical rules for the connection service

The reference technical rules for connection differ according to whether the connection is to a low voltage network (up to 1 kV) or to a higher voltage network.

For network voltages above 1 kV, AEEG Decision No ARG/elt 33/08 “Technical conditions for connection to electricity distribution networks with a nominal voltage above 1 kV: Single technical rule for medium / high / very high voltage connections” recognises standard CEI 0-16 as the standard to which all network operators must refer when defining the connection project. The anticipated maximum values for connection capacity, depending on the network voltage, are the following:

Table: Reference technical rules for net connection

Network voltage Plant capacity
Low (< 1 kV) < 100 kVA
Medium (< 35 kV) < 6000 kVA

The local network operator will manage the connection procedure for the producer up to a connection capacity of 10 MVA. New energy producers intending to be connected to the electricity network can refer to the TICA.

For low and medium voltage connections, the deadlines for preparing the connection estimate, starting from the date on which the connection request is received, are the following:

  • 20 working days for feed-in capacities up to 100 kW
  • 45 working days for feed-in capacities between 100 kW and 1,000 kW
  • 60 working days for feed-in capacities higher than 1,000 kW.

The estimate is valid for 45 working days and gives a list of the works which are strictly necessary in order to physically create the connection, which the applicant must make available at the connection point. The estimate must indicate the payment due for the connection, highlighting the portion, equal to 30% of the total, which the applicant must pay when it accepts the estimate, and the remaining portion which the applicant must pay after the completion of the necessary works to prepare the network installation infrastructure for the connection at the connection point.

The timeframe for completing the connection is 30 working days for simple works and 90 working days for complex works, increased by 15 working days for each kilometre of power line to be constructed at medium voltage, after the first kilometre.

When the connection installation has been completed, the distributor company announces this and declares that the connection can be brought into operation.

If, in order to create the connection, it proves necessary to carry out operations on the high voltage network, the timeframe for completing the connection is indicated by the distributor company in the connection estimate.

RES-E (“IAFR”) qualification of plants

The qualification of plants as plants using renewable energy sources (“IAFR” – RES-E) is a pre-requisite to obtain green certificates or the all-inclusive feed-in tariff.

Eligible plants include:

  • new, upgraded/repowered, totally/partially renovated and reactivated plants that have been commissioned after 1 April 1999;
  • co-firing plants that have been commissioned before 1 April 1999 and have operated as hybrid plants after such date.

Apart from for a few exceptions specified in the Ministerial Decree of 18 Dec. 2008, photovoltaic plants are not eligible for these forms of support, as they only benefit from the support referred to in the Ministerial Decree of 19 Dec. 2007 (PV feed-in scheme).

Starting in 2009, under the Ministerial Decree of 18 December 2008, plant owners are required to pay a contribution (based on the average yearly capacity of their plant) to the costs incurred by GSE for the qualification procedure.

The producer must submit an appropriate application, accompanied by the required technical documents, to GSE to apply for the RES-E qualification.


The construction and operation of bioenergy plants require obtaining a number of decisions. Some of them are common for biogas and wood combustion plants, some refer to a specific type of plant. Therefore below permits are included in one table with the determination of plant’s type. In the table also is posted which law is regulated the permit.

Table: Overview of permits connected with environmental protection referring to specific type of plant and legal origin of regulation

Permits Plant’s type description Law
Decision on the environmental conditions For biogas plants where amount of energy introduced to the system fuel is at least 25 MW

§  Act of Parliament of the 27th April, 2001

§  Environmental  Law (OJ No 62, item 627 as amended)

§  Regulation of the Council of Ministers of  November 11, 2010 on projects which are likely to  have a significant effect on the environment
(OJ No 213, item 1397)

Decision to permit release of gases or dust into the air For biogas plants where amount of energy introduced to the system fuel is greater than 15 MW

§  Act on Waste of the 27th April, 2001 (OJ No 62, item 628 as amended)

§  Regulation of the Minister for the Environment of the 2nd July, 2010 on cases when release of gases or dust into the air from installation does not require permit (OJ No 130, item 881)

Application due  to the release of gases or dust into the air For biogas plants where amount of energy introduced to the system fuel is greater than 1 MW and lower or equal to 15 MW

§  Act on Waste of the 27th April, 2001 (OJ No 62, item 628 as amended)

§  Regulation of the  Minister for the  Environment of 2nd July, 2010 on installation types which requires application for operation (ON No 130, item 880)

Decision to permit the waste recovery by R10 For biogas plants where waste are spreading on the ground for fertilization or soil improvers §  Act on Waste of the 27th April, 2001 (OJ No 62, item 628 as amended)
Decision to permit the waste recovery by R3 For biogas plants §  Act on Waste of the 27th April, 2001 (OJ No 62, item 628 as amended)




Table: Overview of permits connected with construction referring to specific type of plant and legal origin of regulation [Ure 2014, MinEconomy 2014, MinAgriculture 2014]

Permits Plant’s type description Law

Building permit decision

§  In the absence of local development plan first obtaining decision of conditions for construction and land management

§  Before the application must be obtained: terms of grid connection, terms of rainwater drainage, terms of connection to water supply, terms of sewage

For biogas plants

§  Act of Parliament of the 7th July, 1994 Construction Law (OJ No 89, item 414 as amended)

§  Act of Parliament of the 27th April, 2001 Environmental Law (OJ No 62, item 627 as amended)

§  Act of Parliament of the 10th April, 1997 Energy Law (OJ No 54, item 348 as amended)

Decision of the technical inspection on operation of pressure (closed) boilers and tanks For tanks in biogas plants

§  Act of Parliament of the 21st December, 2000  on the Technical Inspection (OJ No 122, item   1321 as amended)

§  Regulation of the Council of Ministers of 16th   July, 2002 on the kinds of devices subjected to the technical inspection (OJ No 120, item 1021 as amended)

Table: Overview of permits connected with operation referring to specific type of plant and legal origin of regulation

Permits Plant’s type description Law
Use permit decision For biogas plants Act of Parliament of the 7th July, 1994 Construction Law (OJ No 89, item 414 as amended)
Entry in the register of energy companies involved in the production of agricultural biogas For agricultural biogas plants Act of Parliament of the 10th April, 1997 Energy Law (OJ No 54, item 348 as amended)
Concession for electricity production For not agricultural biogas plants Act of Parliament of the 10th April, 1997 Energy Law (OJ No 54, item 348 as amended)
Concession for heat  production Biogas plants of installed thermal power greater than 5 MW Act of Parliament of the 10th April, 1997 Energy Law (OJ No 54, item 348 as amended)
The Netherlands

For the approval of the permit for a biogas plants a lot of laws and orders have to be considered. The InfoMil “Handreiking (co-) vergisting van mest” and/or “Handreiking monovergisting van mest” are guidelines (no law) which are often used by local governments in the permit procedures for biogas plants. To be able to build a biogas installation a planning permit (“omgevingsvergunning”) is needed, which includes permits for spatial planning (zoning), environment, construction, water protection, ammonia emissions etc. Next to the planning permit, the installation needs to be accredited by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) for the use of animal by-product. Depending on the destination of the digestate (spreading on farm fields verses processing or export) there is strict(er) regulations from the NVWA. Further, (co-) digestion of manure is also part of the manure law (“Meststoffenwet”), which regulates, among other things, which co-substrates can be used in the process.

Planning permit

To be able to build a biogas installation a planning permit (“omgevingsvergunning”) is needed, which includes permits for spatial planning (zoning), environment, construction, waterprotection, nitrogen emissions etc. For most, if not all, small scale biogas installation the municipality is the authority for the permit procedure. For the application of the planning permit, several documents, tests, maps and drawings are to be compiled.

Zoning plan

Spatial planning is regulated with the zoning plan (“Bestemmingsplan”). It is dependent on the current zoning plan whether a biogas installation can be realised at the location. The first step in planning a farm scale biogas plant is to find out if a biogas installation is allowed in the zone of the company. In the zoning plan is described if, and under what conditions, biogas installations are allowed and, if not, the zoning plan describes what it offers possibilities to aberrate from the prescribed regulations.

As farm-scale biogas plants are mostly build at a farm, the biogas installation will most probably by build in the outlying area of the zoning plan, where the plan offers possibilities for agricultural activities. The key is how “agricultural activities” is defined in the zoning plan and what secondary activities are allowed. Farm-scale installations for digestion, biogas utilization and digestate/manure treatment, which do not import extra manure, are mostly seen as an agricultural activity. Further, be advised that the current zoning plan or the current planning permit may restrict the size of structures and the size of the building block of your company.

When a biogas installation is not allowed, or the size of the installation exceeds the limits of the zoning plan there are two options: 1. the zoning plan already offers the possibility to aberrate for a biogas installation, the procedure is rather straight forward. 2. the zoning plan needs to be individually changed to include a biogas installation, an application to change the plan can take up to 3-4 months. As mentioned the local governments often follow the InfoMil “Handreiking (co-) vergisting van mest” quite strictly when they receive a request to add a biogas installation to the “bestemmingsplan”. Before requesting the change it is often helpful to arrange a meeting with the officials who will assess the request. The aberration or change of the zoning plan is part of the planning permit procedure.


For every biogas installation, an environmental permit is part of the planning permit. Depending on the size and lay-out of the installation, the environmental permit can be obtained by fulfilling to a standardized set of requirements set by the government in the activity decree, or by applying for an advanced procedure, where the environmental impact of the installation will be individually assessed and a custom set of regulations and requirements will be designed.

The zoning plan or current planning permit mostly already contains limits and regulations regarding acoustics, odor and emissions in your zone. The authorities can, during the application process, request additional research results for soil quality, odor, acoustics and air emissions, proving that the installations stays within  these boundaries or does not pollute the environment significantly.

Further, be advised that the authorities (municipality or province) may have forbidden the use of certain chemicals in areas of groundwater extraction or groundwater protection areas, or can (and will) add more regulations to the permit.

Activity decree

As of July 2015, small scale biogas installations (< 25.000 ton a year, only manure but including biogas upgrading and some techniques of manure treatment) are included in the activities decree (“Activiteitenbesluit”). This means that, as long as you can prove that your installations fulfils the requirements of the activities decree on biogas installations, an environmental permit can be obtained by a limited environmental procedure of 4 weeks.

The following criteria are the most important differences between the limited and the regular procedure[1]:

  • Maximum capacity: 25.000 ton manure per year
  • Maximum addition of co-substrates: 0 ton per year
  • Maximum 430 ppm H2S is biogas
  • At least 50 meters between gas storage and vulnerable objects

Apart from the requirements of the activity decree, the requirements of the zoning plan have to be met.

The activity decree also includes biogas CHP engines up to 2,5 MWth, The mono-nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions in the exhaust air are however to be accounted for the total nitrogen emissions of the company (see: other regulations of the permit).

Advanced procedure

If the installation does not compile with the requirements of the activity decree, the advanced procedure will apply on the application for the environmental permit. This procedure takes up a maximum of 26 weeks, which includes 6 weeks of public availability for inspection by neighbours and other stakeholders. If in this period objections by relevant stakeholders are submitted, the procedure may legally be extended with another 6 weeks. For this procedure no additional costs are demanded by the local authorities. With the advanced procedure the environmental impact of the installation will be individually assessed and a custom set of regulations and requirements will be designed.


The building permit is obtained with the regular procedure and takes 4 weeks. The authorities can extend this period with a maximum of 6 weeks. When the building permit is obtained, neighbours and other relevant stakeholders can object to the permit within 6 weeks. The building procedure can be started parallel with the environmental procedure. For the building permit it is advised that the builder of the installation is known, so they can have influence on the building permit application. For the building permit the authorities request building fees, which are a percentage of the total installation costs.

Generally, constructions which deal with manure will need to conform the regulation for manure basins (“Richtlijnen Mestbassins 1992 (RM 1992)”) regarding technical requirements on the endurement of the used materials and stability of the construction. Other constructions and structures need to conform the current building code (“bouwbesluit”).

Other regulations of the permit

If the emission of nitrogen of your company deposits on a sensitive nature areas (Natura2000), your company may already have a Nature Conservation permit (“natuurbeschermingswetvergunning”). In this case, for any additional emission of any form of nitrogen, research results will need to be submitted showing that there is no additional deposit on Natura2000 areas, or that the extra deposit has been compensated for. This means that the mono-nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the exhaust air of a biogas boiler or biogas CHP will need to be modelled and accounted for.

In the past it was always necessary to compile an environmental effect assessment report (“M.E.R.”) for a biogas installation.  Due to a law change this M.E.R. assessment is not requested automatically anymore for biogas installations in the permit application procedure. However, still a form free M.E.R assessment procedure can be requested and, depending on the outcome, authorities may still request to compile a full M.E.R. reporting procedure. If your company is already obliged to the M.E.R. reporting procedure, this will also apply for the biogas installation.

Manure law (“Meststoffenwet”)

Every company that supplies or produces manure is obliged to keep account of the minerals. If more manure is supplied to and produced at the company than is spread or exported, a mineral levy will be fined. The alleged coproducts are part of these accounts. According to the manure law digestate (fermented manure) from the digester can be spread on farmland under some constraints: only manure is fermented in the digester or, the input of the digester consists of at least 50% manure and less than 50% of products listed in Annex Aa, part IV of the implementation regulation of the Manure Law (“uitvoeringsregeling Meststoffenwet”). In all other cases, the digestate is classified as waste.

Accreditation for EG 1069/2009

Manure is an animal by-product. Therefore, before you can operate a manure digester, the installation, and all processes connected, has to accredited by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA). The NVWA imposes requirements and regulations on the use of animal by-products in a digester. The aim is to protect public health. Animal by-products are products of animal origin that are not intended for human consumption. There are three categories of animal by-products:

Table: Categories of animal by-products as set by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA)

Animal by-products Definition Examples of by-products Elimination route
Category 1 Can seriously endanger public health Spinal cord, Brains ruminants Combustion, pressure sterilization, landfill
Category 2 May endanger public health Manure, residues of veterinary drugs Combustion, digestion, spreading on agricultural land
Category 3 No serious danger for public health Kitchen waste, food waste Feed, digestion, combustion

The export of digestate on the market is regulated by requirements under the EU regulation animal by-products (EG-1069/2009 and EG-142/2011). This means that NVWA also set requirements for the implementation and operation of a digester, if animal by-products are digested.

There are basically three types of accreditation: digestion of Category 2 material, digestion of Category 3 material and digestion of a combination of products from these two categories. The EU Regulation establishes the following requirements for the conversion of animal by-products into biogas:

  • Adequate distance between the digester (s) and livestock;
  • Strict separation of ingoing manure and digestate to prevent microbiological contamination;
  • Facility for cleaning and disinfecting vehicles that deliver manure;
  • Facility for cleaning and disinfecting vehicles leaving the plant;
  • Adequate storage of fresh manure which is processed as quickly as possible;
  • Pest control program present at farm;
  • Documenting of the executed hygiene controls;
  • Cleaning protocol and cleaning products present at farm;
  • Separate digestate storage that guarantees the prevention of recontamination from fresh manure;
  • Good process description and diagram present at the installation;
  • Pasteurization plants (if applicable; see next page) must be accredited;
  • A fully submitted Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan if the processed digestate product is marketed.

Biogas plants that want to market the processed digestate product (e.g. export) or use special materials must in addition to the foregoing requirements, satisfy the requirement of pasteurization or validation. The pasteurisation requirement means that the ingoing manure or digested matter must be heat treated to at least 70°C and the matter should stay at this temperature for at least one hour.

Preferably, each time a new quantity (batch) is heated, such that with certainty all the germs and viruses in the biomass have been killed. However NVWA may also approve a flow system, involving a theoretical residence time (which in term must be approved by the NVWA). The latter can be less energy intensive than pasteurization.

Another option to get accreditation when you want to market your processed digestate is by validation of the process. With validation the digestion process is shown to be equally successful in killing germs and viruses as pasteurization. To get the process validated, samples of the running installation should prove that sufficient germs and viruses are killed during the digestion process (or other process) itself. For validation of the process, sufficient knowledge about the own installation is needed about the retention time (average time biomass remains in the digester), biological processes in the system and monitoring systems.

Be advised to contact the NVWA in an early stage, so that changes in the installation due to regulations van be prevented.

[1] Although this enumeration contains the most important criteria, the list is not exclusive. Please consult the activities decree to make sure your installation meets all the criteria for the limited procedure.

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