Carbon Farming Initiative Biochar Capacity Building Program - Grant Program Guidelines

The application period for the Biochar Capacity Building program is now closed and no further applications will be accepted. The Biochar Capacity Building program guidelines are available for reference.

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Contents

  1. Overview
  2. Purpose of the Biochar Capacity Building Program
  3. How the program will operate
  4. Key dates
  5. Who is eligible?
  6. What qualifies for funding?
  7. How to apply?
  8. What are the conditions?
  9. Publication of grant information
  10. How are applications assessed?
  11. Who is selecting the suitable applicants?
  12. Notification
  13. Complaints handling process
  14. Additional Information
  15. Contact us

Overview

Biochar is a stable charcoal produced by pyrolysis, which is the heating of biomass to high temperatures in low levels of oxygen. The biochar stores part of the biomass’s carbon in a stable form and is then used as a soil amendment1. The pyrolysis process can also capture combustible gases to produce bio-energy.

The Biochar Capacity Building Program is part of the $45.6 million Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI)2. The CFI will develop opportunities for Australian farmers and land managers to generate credits that can be sold in domestic and international carbon markets and receiving income for taking action to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions.

The Biochar Capacity Building Program will support research, on-ground testing and demonstration of biochar to provide additional options for land managers to contribute to reducing Australia’s carbon pollution.

The Biochar Capacity Building Program is a $2 million (GST exclusive) grants program that will provide funding for approved projects from 2011-12 to 2013-14.

The Biochar Capacity Building Program will complement work under the Climate Change Research Program, including work through the National Biochar Research Initiative and the Soil Carbon Research Program.

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Purpose of the Biochar Capacity Building Program

The Biochar Capacity Building Program will develop biochar as an option for Australia’s land managers to help mitigate Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and provide opportunities to participate in carbon markets through the CFI.

The Biochar Capacity Building Program aims to facilitate the development of biochar offset methodologies3 that will be publicly available for use by Australian land managers in carbon markets, through the CFI.

Program Priorities

The program priorities are:

  • research that determines and quantifies how biochars mitigate greenhouse gas emissions
  • demonstration of integrated biochar systems in Australia, from the production of the biochar to its end use. This would include economic analysis and emissions life cycle assessments to inform land managers’ decisions about biochar
  • the development of biochar offset methodologies to enable land managers to participate in carbon markets through the CFI.

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How the program will operate

Funded projects will be selected through a competitive grants process and must be completed by 1 June 2014. Within the funding limits of the program, there is no limit on the amount of funding an approved project may receive.

Applicants are required to submit an application for funding and meet all eligibility and other requirements.

Applications will be assessed against the assessment criteria listed in Section 10 – How are applications assessed? Section 10 also sets out the assessment process and is to be read in conjunction with Section 11 – Who is selecting the suitable applicants?

Successful applicants will be required to enter into a funding deed with the Commonwealth of Australia through the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (the department) before they are eligible to receive Commonwealth funding.

Commonwealth funds are available across the financial years 2011–12 to 2013–14.The first payment will be initiated by the signing of the funding deed and future payments will be paid in increments and on the completion of milestones as specified under the funding deed.

Cash and/or in-kind contributions from applicants are required. In-kind contributions must be directly related to the eligible costs of delivering the activities of the project and can include salaries of staff for the time they are involved and other costs incurred for the duration of the project. Contributions (both cash and in-kind) should be listed in the budget.

Successful applicants will be required to submit regular progress reports (at least every six months) under the milestones in the funding deed. These reports will cover the activities, outputs and outcomes along with all necessary information to verify results (i.e. evidence of achievement). Successful applications will also need to identify methods for communicating outputs and outcomes to Australia’s land managers as well as to relevant science and policy communities.

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Key dates

The table below presents anticipated key dates in the Biochar Capacity Building Program. A single funding round is envisaged.

Milestone Anticipated Dates
Guidelines available and application period open November 2011
Applications close 3 February 2012
Assessment of applications, refining of selected projects, endorsement and approval April 2012
Funding deed signed by both parties and initial payment made June 2012
Program ends 30 June 2014

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Who is eligible?

Applicants must be an Australian company, business, research organisation, government agency or department, for example:

  • Australian business with an Australian Business Number
  • Rural Research and Development Corporation
  • National or state primary industry organisation
  • Australian, state or territory or local government agency or statutory corporation
  • Australian tertiary education institution
  • Australian Cooperative Research Centre
  • Australian public sector research agency
  • Australian private research organisation.

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What qualifies for funding?

Applications for the Biochar Capacity Building Program funding must meet the following requirements:

  • Proposed work must be undertaken in Australia and address one or more of the program priorities outlined in Section 2 – Purpose of the Biochar Capacity Building Program. Applications that address more than one priority will be highly regarded
  • Proposed work must be completed by 1 June 2014. Payments may be made across three financial years from 2011–12 to 2013-14
  • The application must address the assessment criteria in Section 10 – How are the applications assessed?
  • Proposed work must not duplicate activities which are being funded under other programs.

Eligible activities

Examples of activities that would be eligible for funding include:

  • research projects examining issues such as the impact of biochar on emissions
  • demonstration of the use of biochar, such as in Australian agricultural and forestry systems
  • projects to develop CFI methodologies for the use of biochar in Australian systems.

Funding will only be paid for work outlined in the funding deed and undertaken as part of the Biochar Capacity Building Program. The grant will not pay for any expenditure incurred prior to the funding deed being signed.

Ineligible activities

Examples of project activities that would be ineligible to receive funding through the Biochar Capacity Building Program include research that:

  • does not address any of the identified research priorities
  • has already been undertaken and funded through other programs.

The following costs would also be ineligible for funding through the Biochar Capacity Building Program. It is envisaged that provision of these costs would be part of an applicant’s contribution to the project.

  • capital expenditure for the purchase of assets such as office furniture and equipment, motor vehicles, computers, printers, photocopiers, construction, renovations and utilities
  • costs involved in the purchase/upgrade of software including licenses
  • any cost incurred prior to signing a funding deed with the Commonwealth
  • core business expenses such as:
    • staff relocation costs
    • administration/overhead and infrastructure costs
    • international travel and living expenses
  • Australian domestic travel and living allowance that is not directly associated with carrying out the research project
  • hospitality/catering costs
  • financial support for feasibility studies
  • commercially based activities, such as costs associated with:
    • the protection or patenting of intellectual property with market research for products or research carried out by surveys to assess the size of the market and/or the price of a particular service or product
    • activities of a distinctly commercial or proprietary nature that are aimed at selling or attracting investment
    • product development and the building or production of commercial prototypes.

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How to apply?

Applicants must use the following process to apply for funding under the Biochar Capacity Building Program. All documents can be downloaded in Microsoft Word 97-2003 format (.doc) from the Biochar Capacity Building Program home page. For alternate formats or hard copies please email the Biochar Capacity Building Program or call 1800 108 760.

  1. Read these guidelines.
  2. Complete the application form electronically as a Microsoft Word document following the instructions in the application form.
  3. Submit both electronic and hard copies of the application form to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry via the following methods:

    1. An electronic copy of the application form in Microsoft Word format via email to the Biochar Capacity Building Program.

      Note: The electronic copy needs to be received by 3 February 2012.

    2. A signed hard copy of the application form and copies of all supporting documentation sent to:

      BCBP Applications
      Climate Change Policy Branch
      Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
      GPO Box 858
      CANBERRA CITY, ACT 2601

      Note: The hard copy needs to be post marked 3 February 2012 or earlier and include letters of commitment confirming and outlining consortium members’ cash and/or in-kind contributions.

Applications that do not meet these deadlines may not be accepted.

Proponents need to provide a fully completed application form. Failure to address all elements of the application form could result in the application being rejected.

Applicants should contact 1800 108 760 or email the Biochar Capacity Building Program if they wish to seek clarification of these guidelines or the application form.

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What are the conditions?

Applicants are responsible for ensuring that they have examined these guidelines and all documents referred to in the guidelines. Applicants should ensure that their application meets the eligibility and other requirements (see Sections 5 to 8) and assessment criteria (see Section 10) and that they have satisfied themselves as to the correctness and sufficiency of their application.

It is the applicant’s responsibility for ensuring that signed letters of commitment from consortium partners are provided (see assessment criterion 7) and that all supporting documentation is submitted by the closing date for applications. If supporting documentation has not been sent or post marked by the required date the application may not be accepted. The department may consider the submission of late applications under genuine extenuating circumstances, provided an alternative timeframe has been agreed prior to the closing date.

Applicants are responsible for all costs incurred in the preparation and lodgement of the application and in respect of any discussions, negotiations, enquiries or any work undertaken prior to signing a funding deed with the Commonwealth.

Successful applicants will be required to enter into the funding deed with the Commonwealth. The standard funding deed template is available on the Biochar Capacity Building Program home page. You can also obtain a copy by emailing the Biochar Capacity Building Program or calling 1800 108 760.

The standard funding deed template contains the terms and conditions of the grant. Applicants should read the standard funding deed before submitting their applications and should seek independent legal advice before entering into the funding deed. No legally binding relationship exists until a funding deed is signed by all parties.

Successful applicants will be required to submit progress (milestone) reports as well as financial and end of year reports as outlined in the funding deed.

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Publication of grant information

Applicants should be aware that if they are successful, Commonwealth policy requires the department to publish information on its website about the applicant, including, but not limited to:

  • name of the person or entity receiving the grant
  • title and purpose
  • amount of funding received
  • term of the grant
  • funding location.

By submitting an application for funding under this grant program, the applicant consents to the publication of the above information by the department if they are awarded funding under this grant program.

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How are applications assessed?

Applications will be assessed on a merit basis by the department’s Biochar Capacity Building Program Expert Advisory Panel (Expert Advisory Panel) against the below criteria. The Expert Advisory Panel will comprise leading research scientists, industry representatives and government officials. Members will have expertise in agricultural research and agricultural economics, with experience in research and delivery of both government and industry programs.

Your application will be scored and ranked against all other applications received. Applications that best align with the assessment criteria will have the greatest likelihood of being funded.

Applications will be assessed against the following criteria. All criteria are weighted equally.

Assessment Criteria

  1. The proposed activities address one or more of the program’s priorities:
    • research that determines and quantifies how biochars mitigate greenhouse gas emissions
    • demonstration of integrated biochar systems in Australia, from the production of the biochar to its end use. This would include economic analysis and emissions life cycle assessment to inform land managers decisions about biochar.
    • the development of biochar offset methodologies to enable farmers and land managers to participate in carbon markets through the Carbon Farming Initiative.

    Applications that address more than one priority may achieve a higher ranking.

    A factor to address when responding to this criterion includes how your project specifically addresses one or more of the priorities.

  2. Clearly defined project activities (what work will be undertaken), outputs (what will be produced) and outcomes (what are the benefits) that can be delivered within the specified timeframe. Key milestones for activities, outputs and outcomes must be identified.

    Factors to address when responding to this criterion include:
    • clearly describe the proposed activities and outputs
    • clearly describe how the outcomes will be achieved including how they will be measured
    • a clear timeline for the project, including key milestones.

  3. Demonstration that the proposed activities, outputs and outcomes will achieve the program’s objective of promoting biochar as an option for Australia’s land managers to mitigate Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and participate in carbon markets

    Factors to address when responding to this criterion include:
    • how the outputs and outcomes of the proposed activities will contribute to the Biochar Capacity Building Program achieving its priorities described above
    • how the proposed project will interact with land holders and carbon market stakeholders
    • collaboration with other projects, if applicable.

  4. Proponent’s managerial and financial competency to manage the project and grant monies

    Factors to address when responding to this criterion include:
    • financial management systems and policies in place to manage grant monies
    • capacity of the project manager to administer grants of this nature, including relevant experience.

  5. Technical feasibility and competency to deliver the project outputs and outcomes

    Factors to address when responding to this criterion include:
    • practical and realistic methodology which will ensure delivery of project outputs and outcomes
    • research capability of project proponent and other consortium members (if applicable), including previous work on the project or related topics
    • how you will report against your expected outputs and outcomes, i.e. how you will monitor and evaluate your work.

  6. Identifies key risks and mechanisms to treat these risks

    Factors to address when responding to this criterion include:
    • identification of risks
    • proposed treatment (how the risk will be minimised).

  7. Appropriate budget

    In assessing this criterion, the Expert Advisory Panel will take into account the extent to which the proposal demonstrates value for money including:
    • a budget showing how the grant funding will contribute directly to the achievement of Biochar Capacity Building Program objectives
    • the extent to which value for money of the proposed project is enhanced through further cash or in-kind contributions
    • letters of commitment showing the level of contribution from co-contributors / consortium members.

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Who is selecting the suitable applicants?

Successful projects will be selected through a competitive grants process and approved by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry or his delegate.

Applications will initially be examined by departmental officers to ensure that the application is eligible and all requirements of the application process have been met (see Sections 5 to 8). The department will provide all applications to the Expert Advisory Panel, along with a summary of the pre-assessment on eligibility.

Eligible applications that meet all program requirements will be ranked against the assessment criteria by the Expert Advisory Panel. During the assessment process the Expert Advisory Panel will identify synergies between individual applications as well as ensure that project objectives, activities and outcomes are within the scope of the Biochar Capacity Building Program.

The Expert Advisory Panel will make recommendations to the department on those applications which:

  • are ranked highly and could be funded through this round
  • could be funded through this round provided that certain conditions are addressed / rectified
  • are ranked lowly and so should not be pursued further.

The Expert Advisory Panel will advise the department where obvious synergies exist between highly ranked projects (i.e. where the merging of two individual projects may lead to greater program outcomes). In such cases, the department may invite applicants to join into coordinated, collaborative projects.

Once assessed by the Expert Advisory Panel, final recommendations will be submitted by the department to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry for approval.

All applicants will be advised of the outcome of their application in writing.

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Notification

Successful Applicants

Successful applicants will receive a letter of offer outlining the project and the amount of funding to be allocated (including a schedule of allocated funds).

The letter of offer does not constitute a funding deed and successful applicants must not commence a project until a funding deed has been negotiated and executed between the Commonwealth and the funding recipient.

Following receipt of the letter of offer and any negotiation, a funding deed will be settled between the Commonwealth and the successful applicants and signed by the respective delegates.

Where a consortium approach is used, lead organisations will be required to enter legally binding arrangements with consortia partners for approved projects. Signed letters of support clearly outlining the level of contribution from all consortium members need to be provided prior to signing the funding deed. Funding recipients may enter into subcontracts with companies in relation to projects. The terms and conditions of the funding deed with the lead organisation will also be imposed on consortia and sub contractors.

The department reserves the right to negotiate with the lead organisation on any aspect of the project prior to the execution of the funding deed, including supporting fewer projects, offering less funding than the amount for which they applied, or seeking further outcomes.

Unsuccessful Applicants

Where an application is unsuccessful, applicants will be notified in writing by the department. There is no appeal mechanism for unsuccessful applicants, nor will unsuccessful applications be reviewed. However, those dissatisfied with the process may follow Section 13 below. Feedback on unsuccessful applications will be available on request and can be obtained by emailing the Biochar Capacity Building Program.

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Complaints handling process

If an applicant is dissatisfied with the way their application has been handled by the department, they can lodge a complaint by contacting the department on 1800 108 760, by emailing the Biochar Capacity Building Program or by mail to:

Biochar Capacity Building Program
Climate Change Division
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
GPO Box 858, Canberra, ACT 2601

The complaint may then be reviewed by one or more independent areas of the department. If no resolution is achieved, an applicant can apply to the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The Ombudsman will usually not investigate a complaint unless the matter has first been raised with the department and the department has been provided with a reasonable opportunity to respond.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman can be contacted on: Phone (toll free) 1300 362 072, by email: ombudsman@ombudsman.gov.au or by visiting the Ombudsman's website.

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Additional Information

Tax Implications

Applicants are advised to seek tax advice before applying and/or entering into a funding deed. Applicants can contact the Australian Taxation Office call centre to discus business tax issues on
13 28 66.

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Contact us

For further information on the Biochar Capacity Building Program, telephone 1800 108 760, email the Biochar Capacity Building Program, or visit the Biochar Capacity Building Program home page.

© Commonwealth of Australia 2010
With the exception of the Commonwealth Coat of Arms
all material presented in this document under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence.

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1 Sohi, S., Loez-Capel, E., Krull, E., Bol, R., 2009. Biochar’s Roles in soil and climate change: A review of research needs. CSIRO Land and Water Science Report 05/09, 64pp.

2 Further information on the CFI is available from the CFI website.

3 Offset methodologies will be approved by the Australian Government and will contain the detailed rules for implementing and monitoring specific abatement activities and generating carbon credits under the CFI.