No Subsidies for Biomass Plants

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The UK Government is intending to introduce new subsidies for energy which they class as renewable, these proposed subsidies are called “Contracts for Difference”. Their subsidy rules and proposals would be a major boost for power stations that burn large amounts of mainly imported wood.

Most of the UK’s wood imports for power stations come from the southern US and British Columbia, in both regions, highly bio-diverse and carbon-rich forests are being rapidly clearcut, a trend which will be made worse by the new demand for wood pellets. The wood Pellets which are used at the Drax power station, for example, have been directly linked to the destruction of ancient swamp-forests in North Carolina, one of the world’s most diverse freshwater habitats. Yet the UK Government continues to ignore all of the mounting evidence that large-scale electricity from biomass is bad for the climate, for forests and for communities.

The Government has already announced that they will give greater long-term incentives to burning millions of tonnes of wood in power stations than to onshore wind and solar PV, both of which have a fraction of the land and carbon footprint of big biomass. Now the Government are consulting on proposals to further advantage biomass ‘combined heat and power’ (CHP) plants (and possibly coal-to-biomass conversions) as a ‘less established technology’, whereas onshore wind and solar PV will be considered “more established”. Continue reading

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Biomass electricity = forest destruction and land-grabs

Clearcutting of coastal native hardwood forests in North Carolina – Drax is burning pellets from native forest logging in this region. Photo: Dogwood Alliance

Campaigners have reacted angrily to Government announcements on Wednesday setting out increased support for new biomass power capacity through “strike prices”.  High levels of long-term subsidies have been guaranteed for the partial conversion of Drax Power station to biomass (allowing both to avoid having to shut down), for the biomass conversion of the currently closed Lynemouth Power station and for a large new biomass plant proposed by MGT Power at Teesside Port. Coal to biomass conversion strike price is £105 p MWh. Dedicated biomass will get £125 p MWh guaranteed.

MGT Power’s plans have already been implicated in land-grabbing in Brazil for eucalyptus plantations, [2] whilst Drax has been shown to have burnt pellets sourced from the clear-cutting of ancient wetland forests in the southern US. [3] Overall, further support was announced for more than 4GW of biomass capacity, which will see operators burning almost 30 million tonnes of green wood a year and receiving approximately £ 1 billion in subsidies for this annually. [4] Drax has already been guaranteed around £198 million in subsidies for biomass conversion under an existing subsidy scheme.  30 million tonnes of wood is equivalent to three times the UK’s  total annual wood production.

Oliver Munnion, Biofuelwatch co-director said: “This announcement speaks volumes about the true nature of UK renewable energy policy. Billions are being thrown at old, inefficient coal-fired power stations in a desperate attempt to keep them generating, whilst new, equally inefficient dedicated plants implicated in land-grabbing are also receiving support. Burning 3 times as much wood as the UK produces every year is not the way to reduce emissions – it’s a smoke screen for the business-as-usual agendas of Government and energy companies.” Continue reading