Climate change advisers have called for a massive expansion of bioenergy in order to meet greenhouse targets.
The Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) Bioenergy Review, said bioenergy - including wood-fired power stations - should be expanded to 10% of total energy, from the current 2%, to meet the UK’s 2050 emissions targets.
David Kennedy, chief executive of CCC, which advises the government, said: “Our analysis shows that there is a crucial role for bioenergy in meeting carbon budgets, but within strict sustainability limits – and trade-offs with wider environmental and social objectives may be needed.”
The report said new large scale biomass power generation developments should be ineligible for Renewables Obligation subsidies, and EU and UK regulations should be tightened to ensure the sustainability of bioenergy. The report said current approaches could result in bioenergy increasing greenhouse gas emissions through land use impacts.
Kennedy said: “Strengthening of regulatory arrangements is required both here and in Europe to provide confidence that bioenergy used over the next decade is sustainable.
“The Government should change its approach to supporting new biomass power generation, which as proposed could raise costs with limited carbon benefits.”
Gaynor Hartnell, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association, said the government is right to support bioenergy generation.
“We agree with the government’s view - that there is a role for power stations using biomass from sustainably produced feedstocks. We expect to see projects coming forward under the Renewables Obligation - and given that biomass is cheaper, more predictable and creates more jobs than offshore wind, this should be a welcome contribution to UK Plc,” she said.
Peter Butt, secretary of the Wood Recyclers Association, said he was surprised the report made little reference to recycled wood as it is considered one of the most significant constituents of solid biomass.
“Clearly, if the percentage of total energy coming from bioenergy is to rise from 2% to 10%, the material has to come from somewhere,” he said. “If meeting 2050 targets means diverting wood from recycling to energy, the government will find itself wrestling with the dictates of its own waste hierarchy.”
Friends of the Earth’s biofuels campaigner Kenneth Richter said the CCC is right to call for industrial power stations “burning huge quantities of imported wood” to be ineligible for RO. Instead, “ministers should back small-scale UK biomass sources like slurry and food waste – and focus on meeting our energy needs by developing clean energy from wind, sun and waves”.