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UK Biomass: Savoir or Destroyer?

Taking effect April 2015, all biomass-fired power generators in the UK will have to prove that they are doing more good than harm or face government funding cuts.

UK government has warned that biomass-fired power generators have to prove the sustainability of their fuel or lose over £1 billion in new investment financing.

In the UK, biomass power generation supports over 3,000 jobs, but the government isn’t necessarily convinced it’s supporting biodiversity. This is something the beneficiaries of the government’s financial largesse will have to prove in line with new regulatory criteria.

Related article: Switchgrass Fuel: Bush Wanted It, Obama Gets It

As of April 2015, the new criteria will apply to all generators 1 MW capacity or more using solid biomass or biogas feedstock, and generators will have to prove that biomass has been sourced using sustainable forest management practices.

Ideally, biomass electricity will represent a 70% greenhouse gas savings over fossil fuel as long as the biomass (in this case wood fuel) itself is from sustainable sources.

Minister for energy and climate change Greg Barker said that the new criteria will boost investor certainty and simultaneously ensure that the biomass is delivered in a transparent and sustainable way.

“Independent audit reports will need to show proof that sustainable harvest rates are used in conjunction with biodiversity protection and respect of land use rights for indigenous populations,” the minister was quoted as saying.

There will be no further changes to the criteria before 2027, according to the government, and all biomass generators who adhere to the new guidelines will continue to receive subsidies.

Related article: Why the Advanced Biofuel Industry is Struggling

Ecology groups are not convinced entirely. They are concerned that the new criteria are tough enough and that this will not eliminate the use of destructive forms of biomass that have led to deforestation in other countries.

Greenpeace environmental group claims that increased use of wood for fuel could cause other industries to replace wood pellets with increased use of steel, which is a key driver of carbon emissions.

The biomass industry denies this, insisting that the UK’s new criteria will ensure transparency and sustainability.

By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com




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Leave a comment
  • Joseph Zorzin on September 20 2013 said:
    The article says, "Ideally, biomass electricity will represent a 70% greenhouse gas savings over fossil fuel as long as the biomass (in this case wood fuel) itself is from sustainable sources."

    Here in Massachusetts, the state government would dissagree- having paid for the Manomet Report, which says that burning wood for biomass isn't carbon neutral in the short term- the state will not allow RECs for biomass only producing electric power, regardless of the source. I believe there are weaknesses in the Manomet Report- but my point here is that I'm wondering if Britain considers biomass to be carbon neutral? It seems that the concern is if the wood comes from sustainable sources- with the implication that it is carbon netural of the source is sustainable- or am I misreading this? And, what is the view of the Manomet Report in Britain?

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