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Industry calls for bioenergy subsidy reform

The UK furniture manufacture industry has called for an end to government subsidies for the use of virgin wood as biomass.

In a report, the Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA) and the British Furniture Confederation (BFC) said the Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme, which subsidises energy generation from renewable sources, is damaging the industry by driving up wood prices.

The report makes a series of recommendations to government to reform the RO scheme. It calls for an assessment of the impact of subsidies on business and jobs in the current banding review, a limit of 10% on the amount of domestically sourced wood used for bioenergy and a planning moratorium on woody biomass plants whilst an impact assessment is carried out.

Stephen McPartland MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Furniture Industry Group, launched the report at the House of Commons. He said MPs are concerned about the impact of wood price rises on industry.

“As we seek to rebalance the economy towards manufacturing it is important that any decision which affects manufacturing industries, such as incentivising burning wood, takes account of how any detrimental impacts can be minimised. This timely report sets out how the current woody biomass subsidies are a significant cause of rising wood prices which are damaging British furniture businesses.”

The report calls on government to encourage waste wood to be used for energy generation rather than sent to landfill and to reconsider the sustainability of building new large scale biomass energy plants.

MRW reported last week that the government’s independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) had recommended an expansion of bioenergy production to meet carbon reduction targets. It said large scale biomass developments should be ineligible for RO subsidies, and that regulations should be tightened to ensure sustainability of bioenergy.

Peter Butt, secretary of the Wood Recyclers Association, said if the expansion of bioenergy resulted in wood being diverted from recycling to energy generation it would conflict with the government’s waste hierarchy.

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