Environment Agency backs heat and power from biomass

Biomass energy could cut greenhouse emissions while generating heat and electricity but only if good practice is followed, according to the Environment Agency.

In a new report ‘Biomass – carbon sink or carbon sinner?’ the agency states biomass energy could play a ‘key role’ in delivering cuts to the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the report states any potential reduction will not matter if the fuel is not produced in an environmentally sustainable way.

It also recommends companies not following ‘best practice’ shouldn’t get any form of government funding in order to encourage them to take it up.

Also using biomass, such as energy crops or waste materials, to generate electricity and heat can cut greenhouse emissions compared with using fossil fuels like gas or coal.

But, according to the agency, best practice will deliver up to 98% less emissions than using coal but worst practice could result in more greenhouse gas emissions overall than using gas.

The report estimates that greenhouse gas emissions of more than three million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year could be saved by 2020 if good practice is followed.

To deliver reductions, the agency is urging Government to ensure all generators publicly report the greenhouse gas emissions from producing, transporting and using biomass fuels and be ready to set minimum standards if required.

Tony Grayling the Environment Agency’s head of climate change and sustainable development, believes

He said: “The biomass heat and power sector can play an important role in helping the UK meet its renewable energy and greenhouse gas commitments but only if it meets high standards.

“We want to ensure the sector’s growth is environmentally sustainable and that the mistakes made with biofuels are avoided, where unsustainable growth has had to be curbed.

“Biomass operators have a responsibility to ensure biomass comes from sustainable sources, and is used efficiently to deliver the greatest greenhouse gas savings and the most renewable energy.

“The Government should ensure good practice is rewarded and biomass production and use that does more harm than good to the environment does not benefit from public support.”

Luke Walsh

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