Campaign calls for end to biomass subsidies

VIDEO REPORT: A campaign has been launched today (22 June) calling on the government to redirect biomass subsidies towards “truly clean and renewable energy sources like solar and wind”.  

Biomass plants which entered into commissioning before September 2018 are eligible for government subsidies

The campaign, called Cut Carbon Not Forests, will see a number of environmental advocacy groups encourage people to write to their MPs over “the UK’s wasteful subsidies for companies that burn trees for electricity”. 

ROCs

Under the Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) scheme, biomass plants which entered into commissioning before September 2018 are given a subsidy for the renewable electricity generated.

This is due to run until 2027.

According to a statement released by the group, the UK is the largest user of biomass electricity in Europe, backed by more than £1 billion a year in government subsidies, paid out via a fee on energy bills.

“However, burning wood in power stations is no better for the climate than burning coal. Further, much of the wood in question is cut down and shipped in from sensitive forests overseas, destroying habitats and wildlife,” they added.

The campaign groups say UK energy bill-payers will spend £13 billion in direct support to large biomass power plants under the system.

Waste wood

The argument for biomass subsidies in some quarters is that the plants process waste wood which is left over once other markets such as animal bedding have been maximised.  

However, speaking with letsrecyle.com, Almuth Ernsting, co-director of Biofuelwatch, said: “The situation we have is that waste wood can only meet a tiny fraction of the current demand for biomass.  

“We think there should be no case for subsidising the burning of wood. The use of waste wood is a minute fraction of the total and a number of plants which do burn waste wood also rely on virgin wood. They are still cutting down trees for burning.  

We do not see that being a rationale for keeping the subsidies. We believe any waste wood issues need to be addressed as part of a waste strategy, and not a reason for having over £1 billion of subsidies for wood burning plants, the majority of which is imported.

The campaign will not focus on plants which process wood to generate heat.

Below you can see Almuth Ernsting, co-director of Biofuelwatch, speak with letsrecycle.com’s Joshua Doherty.

The campaign is being led jointly by BiofuelwatchDogwood Alliance, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and the Southern Environmental Law Center 

The group say over the entire period during which subsidies are available to burn biomass (2012-2027), the UK government will also forgo £2.8 billion in carbon taxes.  

 

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