Environmental campaigners denounce new “subsidies for forest destruction and air pollution”

11th September 2017 – Following today’s announcement of new subsidies for renewable electricity [1] – called Contracts for Difference [2] – environmental campaign group Biofuelwatch [3] denounces a subsidies award for a large new biomass power station in Grangemouth, warning that this will fuel more forest destruction, more carbon emissions, and more air pollution.

Most of the new subsidies awards have gone to offshore wind which Biofuelwatch agrees produces genuinely low-carbon energy; however, one award has gone to what would become Scotland’s largest biomass power station, and others to controversial “energy from waste” [4] projects. The company behind the Grangemouth award is called Silva Renewable Energy Ltd. According to the Vice-Convenor of Grangemouth Community Council, Walter Inglis, the local community had not been informed about any activities or plans by that company prior to today’s Government announcement about subsidies. It is thought that Silva Renewable Energy may be seeking to use a highly controversial planning consent obtained by a Joint Venture of Forth Ports and SSE, Forth Energy, in 2013, against strong opposition from several community, council and environmental campaign groups.

Biofuelwatch welcomed the fact that the Government had prevented coal power station operators from bidding for a 2017 subsidies award for converting more power station units to biomass, but denounced the decision to allow awards for new biomass power stations with minimal heat use.

Almuth Ernsting, co-director of Biofuelwatch, said

“We are dismayed to see yet more subsidies going to power stations that will burn biomass and waste – neither of which are remotely sustainable. We are particularly shocked to see money awarded to a large biomass power station in Grangemouth, one which we must assume will burn imported wood pellets or woodchips, in an already heavily polluted town. The UK already burns more wood in power stations than we can produce annually, which causes forest destruction in other parts of the world such as the southern US. Awarding more money to power stations to burn more wood is only going to make this problem worse.”

Walter Inglis, Vice-Convenor of Grangemouth Community Council, said:

“I am shocked and disappointed to see that a company has succeeded in winning subsidies for a huge biomass power station in Grangemouth. Once again, the already poor air quality and public health of residents in Grangemouth is being sacrificed.”

Per unit of electricity, biomass power stations emit even more carbon dioxide from their smokestacks than coal power plants. Studies show that it can take decades or even centuries for new trees and forests to re-absorb the carbon emitted from burning wood now [5]. Furthermore, biomass power stations emit levels of air pollution similar to coal power stations, including small particulates and nitrogen oxides. Grangemouth is already exposed to high levels of pollution from Ineos’s oil refinery and petrochemical plant, as well as other industrial developments.

The UK is already home to the world’s largest biomass power station – Drax in Yorkshire, another recipient of substantial government subsidies – which burns pellets made from around 13 million tonnes of wood every year, 98% of which is imported. Some of this wood comes from the southern states of the US, where biodiverse coastal forests are being replaced by monoculture plantations and local communities are suffering the air quality impacts of pellet plants on their doorstep.



[1] gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/643560/CFD_allocation_round_2_outcome_FINAL.pdf

[2] Contracts for Difference (CfDs) guarantee a minimum purchase price for renewable electricity which is set far above the market price for electricity. Contracts for Difference are awarded through an auction, based on eligibility criteria set by the Government. The Government decided earlier this year that biomass “Combined Heat and Power Plants” (CHP) would be eligible to bid in the auction. To meet the definition of CHP, a power station has to make use of a limited amount of its heat and reach an overall efficiency of just 35%, which is less than the efficiency of most fossil fuel power stations and less than half what could in theory be achieved with biomass CHP.

[3] Biofuelwatch is a campaign group providing information, advocacy and campaigning in relation to the climate, environmental, human rights and public health impacts of large-scale industrial bioenergy. . For more information see biofuelwatch.org.uk

[4] The “waste incineration” subsidies are going to “advanced conversion” technologies, i.e. gasification or pyrolysis.

[5] See biofuelwatch.org.uk/biomass-resources/resources-on-biomass/ for a list of peer-reviewed studies about the climate impacts of biomass electricity.


Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch 0131 6232600

Frances Howe, Biofuelwatch 07928113194