– Note: This consultation is now closed and the alert only remains as a record, for information –
The UK Government is introducing new subsidies for energy classed as renewable, called Contracts for Difference. Their subsidy rules and proposals are a major boost for power stations that burn large amounts of mainly imported wood.
Most of the UK’s wood imports for power stations come from the southern US and British Columbia. In both regions, highly biodiverse and carbon-rich forests are being rapidly clearcut, a trend made worse by the new demand for wood pellets. Pellets sold to Drax, for example, have been directly linked to the destruction of ancient swamp-forests in North Carolina, one of the world’s most diverse freshwater habitats. Yet the Government continues to ignore all of the mounting evidence that large-scale electricity from biomass is bad for the climate, for forests and for communities.
The Government has already announced that they will give greater long-term incentives to burning millions of tonnes of wood in power stations than to onshore wind and solar PV, both of which have a fraction of the land and carbon footprint of big biomass. Now they are consulting on proposals to further advantage biomass ‘combined heat and power’ (CHP) plants (and possibly coal-to-biomass conversions) as a ‘less established technology’, whereas onshore wind and solar PV will be considered “more established”.
While most people associate biomass CHP with small-scale, efficient district heating systems, this is not what’s being promoted here. The ‘CHP’ plants which the subsidy rules favour are big, centralised power stations with just 35% efficiency (i.e. wasting almost two out of every three trees cut down entirely), which use a very minimum amount of heat, possibly even for drying their own pellets or woodchips. Three large and import-reliant power stations have already been approved as ‘CHP’ with no credible plan for delivering heat whatsoever!
Please respond to the Government consultation by taking part in this alert before 12th February. If you can, please personalise the text below. Many thanks.