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Anger over ‘reckless’ biomass energy claim

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) has accused environmental campaigners and wood and paper industry bodies of “peddling pseudo-science” in their opposition to wood biomass energy.

REA chief executive Gaynor Hartnell said she was “extremely disappointed” that a letter signed by Greenpeace, the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) and others calling on MPs to limit subsidies for wood biomass electricity generation was published in the Times.

The letter, which was intended to influence a forthcoming Parliament debate on the Energy Bill, said current subsidies for biomass electricity were expected to use of the equivalent of six times the UK’s annual forestry harvest by 2017. It also outlined industry concerns that biomass plants will push up wood and paper prices.

It warned the government that “the reckless pursuit of generating electricity from wood threatens to backfire, in terms of both the environment and the economy”.

But the claims were hotly rejected by the REA, which published a letter it sent to Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the RSPB in March asking for greater co-operation on biomass.

In that letter Hartnell said the “Dirtier than Coal” report which the lobbyists used as evidence to argue against biomass promoted misinformation as science. She accused them of deliberately creating confusion “in some instances”.

Hartnell said: “I’ve fought battles alongside these NGOs for 18 years to promote renewable energy and combat climate change. I’m extremely disappointed to see organisations of this stature peddling pseudo-science that they must know doesn’t represent the real world of solid biomass supply.

“The UK’s energy consumers need to know the facts. They are facing rising bills, a need to decarbonise the economy and an impending shortfall in electricity generating capacity. We only have a few options that can provide cost-competitive, baseload renewable power, and are rapidly deployable. It’s time these NGOs told the truth and started to live in the real world.”

The Times letter follows an announcement last week that the CPI was joining the lobby group against energy-only biomass.

CPI director general David Workman said: “The paper industry relies on supplies of wood from sustainably managed forests to manufacture pulp. As global demand for wood-based products rises, it is conceivable that wood could become a scarce resource and we therefore oppose its large scale use as a fuel purely to generate energy.”

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