Press release: Environmental Groups from Netherlands and 5 pellet supplying countries urge much faster wood biomass phaseout

Environmental groups from countries supplying wood pellets to The Netherlands demand a much faster and more comprehensive phase out of wood bioenergy subsidies than planned

– for immediate release –

Amsterdam, 20th June 202231 environmental organisations in the Netherlands and in the five main countries supplying wood pellets burned in Dutch plants have today sent an open letter [1] to members of the House of Representatives Committee for Economic Affairs and Climate, welcoming the government’s decision not to allow any new subsidies for most forms of biomass heat, but calling for a much faster and more comprehensive phase out of wood-bioenergy. The Committee will be presented with a government report on biomass energy subsidies on Wednesday, 22nd June. The organisations are asking for a withdrawal or buy-out of current subsidies, such as the subsidies for burning 3.5 million tonnes of imported wood pellets in coal plants every year.

The Netherlands are currently the world’s second largest importers of wood pellets, having seen seen the largest increase in pellet imports of any country since 2018.[2] The government previously announced that no new subsidies for co-firing wood in coal plants will be granted when existing ones end in 2027, and has now announced that there will be no further subsidies for biomass plants providing ‘low temperature heat’, mostly used for district heating and greenhouses. However, new subsidies can still be awarded for burning pellets to provide heat for industries, such as a proposed new wood pellet burning plant by Saudi Amarco’s subsidiary SABIC in Bergen op Zoom.[3]

Rita Frost from Dogwood Alliance, one of the signatories to the letter states: “Last year alone, Dutch coal plants burned over 1.2 million tonnes of wood pellets from the Southeastern USA, more than from any other region. Our forests are being destroyed and our communities are being harmed by The Netherlands’ appetite for wood pellets.”

Siim Kuresoo from Estonian Fund for Nature adds: “Forests in Estonia and Latvia are being logged at harmful and unsustainable levels, causing serious ecological harms. Populations of forest birds are declining, forests are sequestering less and less carbon, and not even endangered bird habitats in protected areas are safe from logging. Pellet imports by countries such as The Netherlands is one of the key drivers for the intensification of logging in both countries.

Nuno Forner from the Portuguese environmental NGO ZERO states: “The Netherlands is Portugal’s fourth largest pellet export market, and we fear that the amount of Portuguese pellets burned in Dutch coal plants could well increase further, as companies look to replace previous imports from Russia. All Portuguese pellet exports are from pine, much of it whole pine stems. Pine trees are being cut down much faster than they regrow, leading to a decline in pine stands and also to economic harm, as wood prices soar and sawmills are forced to close.