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Energy targets could damage papermaking industry

Demanding renewable energy targets set by the previous Labour Government could mean that recyclable waste paper will be burned to produce energy, believes the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI).

According to CPI head of regulatory affairs David Morgan, the Government would do all it could to meet its “very challenging targets”, which could mean they would allow the burning of waste paper fibre. The UK must meet EU targets of producing 20% of its energy generation from renewable sources by 2020.

“Renewables energy targets are increasing and the Government is encouraging the energy industry to turn to biomass,” Morgan told MRW. “Recovering energy from waste that cannot be recycled is great, so from that point of view we agree with the Government. But the problem is that the way they are going about it could lead to all sorts of bioproducts, such as paper pulp [which could be recycled back into paper], becoming attractive.

“We are worried that because the targets are so high, the Government will do all it can to meet them. And there is nothing in the regulations to say you cannot burn wood or waste paper that can be made into other products. This could mean that raw material price is driven up by the fact that renewable energy plants need woodchip to burn and this will affect the viability of papermaking.”

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), which comes into effect next April, could contribute to this problem because it offers an incentive to operators which use these systems. However, RHI regulations are yet to be finalised.

Wood industry experts have also expressed their concern over Government energy initiatives such as the renewable obligation, which seem to incentivise the burning of wood for energy rather than recycling where possible.

Morgan also explained that there was a lot of over-regulation in the bid to improve carbon emissions, through the EU Emission Trading Scheme, the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme and company Climate Change Agreements.

The concerns were highlighted in the CPI’s 2009 Annual Review: A Year of Achievement, which revealed that the paper and board industries suffered further declines in the amount of paper consumed and produced in 2009. But paper achieved a 78.8% recycling rate – the highest among all materials.

Additionally, the CPI successfully lobbied the Government to change proposals to remove Environmental Permitting Exemption for recovered paper merchants that stored material in the open.

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