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Back Biomass - May Newsletter



In brief


  • Big push to safeguard biomass in the Energy Bill
  • REA hits back at biomass “pseudo-science”
  • ECC Committee session on bioenergy
  • Dedicated biomass consultation
  • Public support for biomass and renewables


Big push to safeguard biomass in the Energy Bill


The House of Commons is now in recess and MPs return on 3 June when the Energy Bill will be debated over two days. There are some concerning amendments tabled to the Bill which would greatly restrict the operation of biomass plants over 15MW. If these were passed, it would mean a number of new plants could not be built - a terrible outcome for our economy and our energy future.


The next eleven days are the final big push we can make to ensure the Bill, which intends to support biomass, is not hijacked by anti-biomass lobbying. We urge you to use the section on our website to email your local MP to show your support for low-carbon, sustainable and cost-effective biomass power and CHP.


It is crucial that ahead of the debate on 3 and 4 June, when MPs will vote on these amendments, that they appreciate the weight of public support for biomass and do not endanger its future.


REA hits back at biomass “pseudo-science”


Biomass sustainability and its role alongside other industries has been the subject of much public debate in recent months. In response to a letter to The Times from NGOs and the wood panel industrial lobby, Gaynor Hartnell, Chief Executive of the REA Back Biomass campaign, took the unusual step of publishing a private letter sent in March 2013 to the heads of three green campaign groups.


In the letter she appeals to them to review their strategy of “promoting … misinformation” and “deliberately facilitating confusion” among the general public about the impact of biomass on the wood products industries and environmental sustainability. This was written about by Fiona Harvey in The Guardian. The Back Biomass campaign has also compiled a document with extracts from key sources, including the Forestry Commission, which shows how groups are consistently misusing facts on biomass and misrepresenting the scientific data.


Through new Government Sustainability Criteria and extra revenues for forest owners, biomass is delivering increases in active forestry management, wood supply and major carbon emissions reductions around the world.  The UK’s energy consumers are facing rising bills and biomass is one of the few options that can provide cost-competitive, baseload renewable power, and is rapidly deployable.


Please see our website for a number of factsheets we and other parties have published on sustainability, carbon accounting, wood fuel prices and energy security.


ECC Committee session on bioenergy


There was a special, one-off session of the Energy and Climate Change Committee on bioenergy which took place on Tuesday 21 May. The Committee heard from a range of interested parties, including biomass energy providers, academics and NGOs.


The session focused mainly on decarbonisation, sustainability and the relative role of domestic vs. imported supply of wood and waste for biomass. One of the Committee members, Daniel Byles MP, said it would cost £42billion more a year not to have biomass as part of the energy mix and said we face a “real, current problem” to ensure lights are on at an affordable price. Dr Raphael Slade (Centre for Energy Policy and Technology, Imperial College) said the growth-to-drain ratio and carbon cycle is effective if you are managing forests sustainably, whereas Harry Huyton (Head of Climate Change, RSPB) said his organisation only supports small-scale biomass.


In general, biomass providers were enthusiastic about the technology’s future for energy supply in the UK and its potential broader contributions, and said they were undertaking significant investment in developing the necessary facilities despite a generally underdeveloped supply chain. However, we were concerned by some comments and in particular misinformation about sustainability and wood supply. You can find our broader summary here.


We understand that there will be a more in-depth inquiry into biomass by the Committee in September or October and we will make sure we get our points across ahead of that!


Dedicated biomass consultation


Earlier this month DECC launched a “Consultation on a notification process for new build dedicated biomass projects”, with proposals on how to cap the amount of new dedicated biomass projects under the Renewables Obligation. The REA’s view, that a cap on new capacity is a deeply flawed concept, has not changed. There may be as much as 1,000MW of biomass projects still in active development, yet DECC seeks to limit new build to just 400MW. The UK faces an impending capacity crunch in 2015-16 and the steady, baseload green electricity generation from these biomass projects is essential, and can provide significant investment and jobs across the country.


Public support for biomass and renewables


DECC recently published its latest “Public Attitudes Tracker” on 30 April, which was set up last year to understand and monitor public attitudes to renewables. It found a steady growth in support for renewable energy sources, up to 82%. Even better news is the high levels of support for biomass, with over two-thirds of the public (68%) saying they support the technology.


The Back Biomass campaign


As ever, get all the latest Back Biomass news by following us on twitter at @BackBiomass. Please send us case studies and any examples which showcase the benefits of biomass.


Please download and share these key documents to show the benefits of biomass. If you have any great stories, do get in touch at and visit our website