UK Renewables Obligation: Last chance to stop subsidies for destructive biomass and biofuel electricity (2011)

Destruction of Brazilian Rainforests. New tree plantations in Brazil are expected to become a major source of UK bioenergy. Photo: National Geographic

In June, the  UK Government is expected to announce its decision about future renewable electricity subsidies.

There is still time to lobby your MP,  Please ask him or her to insist that renewable energy support must go to clean, sustainable real renewables, such as sustainably sited wind, solar and tidal energy, and not to destructive biomass and bioliquid electricity.

If you have more time and can visit your MP’s surgery to discuss the government’s renewables electricity policy, this could be particularly effective.  Please forward any replies to

Please note: For those living in Scotland, there is a separate Scottish consultation on the Renewables Obligation. If you would like to get involved in the campaign against destructive biomass and biofuel subsidies in Scotland, please email us.


The government believes it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by providing finance to renewable energy technologies through subsidies called Renewable Obligation Certificates  (ROCs) .  As well as providing support for clean technologies like wind farms,  ROCs also finance electricity from biomass and bioliquids,  which have been shown to increase greenhouse gas emissions, cause deforestation, and worsen air quality locally.

The sourcing of biofuels and biomass from overseas has been widely implicated (directly and indirectly) in human rights abuses – including the forced eviction of people from their land and inhumane treatment of workers. The Renewables Obligation also subsidises the incineration of waste, which can be derived from fossil fuels,  thus worsening air quality and discouraging recycling.

The Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change is currently reviewing the  level of support to be given from April 2013 to all types of electricity classed as renewable, including from biomass and bioliquids. They propose to continue to support biomass on an unlimited scale – even more than at present as far as co-firing of biomass with coal is concerned.  They also propose  to support the burning of up to 400,000 tonnes of bioliquids per year (on top of the large-scale use of biofuels for transport). If all this bioliquid were palm oil – a realistic prospect given that this is by far the cheapest vegetable oil – then 110,000 hectares of new oil palm plantations would be needed.

The Renewable Obligation Scheme is financed through money taken from our fuel bills, so it is OUR MONEY that is being spent. If things stay as they are, it will cost us more than £3 billion every year by 2020 to fund this dirty, false solution at the expense of people and the planet.

Forests sustain the livelihood of hundreds of millions of people in South America, South East Asia and elsewhere, yet continue to be destroyed to supply European 'Renewable Energy' Markets. Source: Friends of the Earth Scotland

Enough is enough: if the UK is to hold itself out as a world leader in providing solutions to the climate crisis and respecting human rights, it must stop spending our money on these false solutions.

Instead, it must focus on the true solutions: curbing our energy consumption by investing in home insulation schemes and  in better public transport networks, and by promoting genuine and sustainable renewables such as appropriately sited wind, wave, and solar energy. Germany for example has already installed 17 GW of solar PV (250 times the UK),  and is forecasted to have nearly 30 GW in 2020, whereas DECC is suggesting the UK will have up 6 GW of biomass by 2020, and only 2.6 GW of solar PV.

Please contact your MP today to ask him or her to call on Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and Charles Hendry, Energy Minister to ensure that bioliquids, biomass and waste will not be eligible for Renewable Obligation Certificates in future.

It would be very helpful if you could copy any correspondence you may get back from your MP to

Please personalise your letter to your MP if at all possible – and if you can visit your MP to talk about your concerns, that could be particularly effective. More background information on ROCs..

Email your MP (UK residents only)
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