Big Biomass in Portugal

Fundão biomass power station, Photo: Nuno Forner

Report by ZERO – Associação Sistema Terrestre Sustentável and Biofuelwatch

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Although in theory Portugal’s biomass power and pellet sectors only use residues and industrial waste, in reality what we are seeing is the unsustainable exploitation of forest resources where
quality wood is being burned to produce electricity or turned into wood pellets. The impacts can be devastating in terms of the loss of soil quality, water storage capacity, biodiversity and tree cover, and in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, and these impacts will only worsen as new biomass power and pellet production capacity comes online.

Driving these impacts are misguided policies at the EU and national level, and heavy subsidisation, that is ultimately paid for by consumers through higher energy bills. There must be an immediate halt to new biomass generation and pellet production capacity, and a significant scaling back of both industries in Portugal. At the same time, forest resources must be used in the most efficient way possible, only burning them as a last resort and where no other options are available. Particularly where pine is concerned, policy should focus on proforestation, where trees are left in the forest as the most effective means of sequestering carbon. The most important first step in terms of policy change would be to end subsidies for biomass energy generation, both in Portugal and elsewhere in Europe, since these subsidies are also driving wood pellet production.