Green groups call for UK Chancellor to cut biomass subsidies

A coalition of green groups is calling on the UK Chancellor Exchequer Philip Hammond to use his first budget statement to end future subsidies for biomass.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as NRDC, Biofuelwatch, Fern and Dogwood Alliance  wrote a letter to earlier today (1 March, 2017). They wrote: “A large proportion of UK renewable energy is generated by old coal-fired power plants that have been converted to burn biomass – a fuel source that is dirtier than coal, destructive for forests, and costlier than other true renewables like wind and solar.”

The groups claimed that burning forest biomass is “not a climate solution”.

The news comes after a report entitled ‘Woody Biomass for Power and Heat’ was published by Chatham House proclaiming that wood was not a carbon-neutral energy source.

The NGOs are calling for wind and solar energy to replace coal-fired power plants. They quoted a recent study conducted by Vivid Economics and said that “wind and solar, not biomass – are likely to be the least-cost way to ensure security of supply while also achieving power sector decarbonisation goals”.

‘Out-of-date arguments’

However, bioenergy trade groups have slammed the theory that biomass is “bad for the environment”.

James Court, head of policy and external affairs at the Renewable Energy Association, told Bioenergy Insight: “This letter lists old, out-of-date arguments and represents another distraction from the real task of delivering a secure, affordable and sustainable energy system.

“The report referenced in the letter is misleading. It provides no new evidence and represents little more than a literature review that doesn't meet the standards we'd expect from a body such as Chatham House.

“The report ignores such a significant body of peer-reviewed work that shows well-regulated biomass can support forest growth and deliver significant carbon savings.

Stringent regulation and transparent reporting to the independent regulators ensures that the UK Government is well aware of the benefits of biomass.”

This story was written by Liz Gyekye, editor of Bioenergy Insight.

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