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Biomass industry hits back at report that claims energy from burning trees is 'dirtier than coal'

Green energy news – by GreenWise staff
14th November 2012
The biomass energy industry has hit back at a report that claims Government plans to subsidise power stations that convert to biomass will increase carbon emissions.
The Back the Biomass campaign today said biomass burned for electricity was an important tool in the fight against climate change.

It follows a damning report published on Monday by the RSPB, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth that claims power stations that burn trees as biomass fuel amount to 'carbon fraud' and can be more damaging to the environment than coal-fired plants. 

Around three million tons of biomass is currently burned in the UK a year, half of which is imported. This amount is predicted to increase 10-fold over the next five years, leading to more imports. 

The Government's wants more coal-fired power stations to switch to biomass to help meets its carbon reduction targets. It provides subsidies to those plants that do. 

Drax, the country’s biggest coal-fired power station, is converting half of its coal-fired plant at Selby, North Yorkshire, to biomass, while Eggborough coal power station in East Yorkshire has announced its intention to fully convert to burning biomass.

Dirtier than Coal
The 'Dirtier than Coal?' report suggests that burning wood from whole trees produces more carbon than burning coal per unit of electricity. Using the Government's own data it suggests that burning whole conifer trees to generate electricity is worse for the climate than coal, resulting in 49 per cent more emissions.

But speaking on behalf of the Back Biomass campaign, Paul Thompson, head of Policy at the Renewable Energy Association, said: "Even when we factor in the biomass supply chain, which includes shipping and processing, its carbon footprint is dwarfed by coal. This is a key part of the criteria the Government uses to regulate the industry.

"It’s also wrong to claim that biomass leads to 'carbon debt’. This argument ignores a number of realities about how forests are managed and the types of wood and crops that produce biomass feedstock.

"With sustainable forestry and the use of a mixture of biomass sources, carbon debt can be avoided altogether. Many forests around the world are actually in carbon credit as a result of better management linked to biomass energy use."

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Biomass industry hits back at report that claims energy from burning trees is 'dirtier than coal'
Drax is converting converting half of its coal-fired plant at Selby to biomass
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