Biomass subsidy divides opinion

A campaign which aims to raise awareness of the impact of the existing biomass subsidy on the furniture industry and environment has gained influential backing from a government official - who slams the policy as "flawed".

Run by the Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA) and British Furniture Confederation (BFC), the campaign argues that the existing biomass subsidy for major energy suppliers is having a “detrimental” effect on the furniture manufacturers as it forces up the price of wood.

It claims that the Government’s “ill-thought” subsides for energy producers is putting furniture businesses under threat, as well as reducing biodiversity and damaging air quality.

Backing the campaign is MP for Stevenage and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Furniture Group (APPFG) Stephen McPartland, who has written an open letter to demonstrate his support of the campaign.

In the letter, he warns that subsidies “encourages construction of new power stations designed specifically to burn huge quantities of biomass”, adding that they present a “significant threat to the industry”, as well the environment.

This, he says is because the “subsidies are being harnessed by big business and on an industrial scale; this is neither sustainable nor environmentally sound. Notwithstanding this dilemma, the threat to our industry is simply a by-product of this flawed policy: the increased demand is steadily pushing up the price of timber and board.”

However, the Renewable Energy Association (REA) disagrees and is running its own campaign in which it calls for people to ‘Back Biomass’, which it believes has a “crucial role to play in the UK’s low carbon future”.

This follows the launch of the Biomass All Party Parliamentary Group, which held its first meeting in Westminster last month.

REA chief executive Gaynor Hartnell said: “The establishment of the Biomass APPG represents an important milestone in getting recognition for the importance of heat and power from sustainable biomass which offers proven, practical, secure low carbon energy as part of a balanced energy mix a message that the REA continues to drive home through the Back Biomass Campaign.”

In opposition, FIRA and BFC are calling on industry supporters to sign its own online petition which it plans to deliver to number 10.

Carys Matthews

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