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Industry welcomes biomass emissions calculator

July 24, 2014, London, England - The UK’s biomass energy sector has welcomed the publication of a bioenergy ‘carbon calculator’ by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) as a demonstration that biomass can help in the fight against climate change.


July 24, 2014
By Canadian Biomass

Topics

July 24, 2014, London, England – The UK’s biomass energy
sector has welcomed the publication of a bioenergy ‘carbon calculator’ by the
Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) as a demonstration that biomass
can help in the fight against climate change.

 

Biomass energy projects in the U.K. use offcuts, thinnings
and residues that would otherwise be incinerated or left to rot after
high-value wood has been harvested and removed from the forest for other
industries such as construction. The Bioenergy and Counterfactuals Model (BEaC)
examines how using these remaining low-grade materials for energy can help to
cut the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

 

The model looks at a range of scenarios for sourcing
biomass, including from forests in the U.S. for large power plants in Britain
such as Drax. However, it does not consider factors such as U.K. and U.S.
environmental regulations, nor financial incentives for landowners to practise
sustainable forestry. The author of the modelling tool acknowledges these
limitations.

 

Untold carbon success
story

Most forest land in the southern U.S., where Drax sources
much of its biomass, are owned by landowners whose land has been in their
families for generations. Decades of careful stewardship have seen a growth in
the region’s forests of around 97% between 1953 and 2007.

 

Helped by market investments in sustainable forestry,
American forests increased carbon absorption from the atmosphere from 701m tonnes
of CO2 per year to 922m tonnes of CO2 per year in 2010.
Biomass energy is seen as key to supporting that growth and stability after the
collapse of the region’s paper mill industry.

 

Robust regulation
both here and abroad

The BEaC Model ‘calculator’ also does not consider the role
of world-leading U.K. regulation, which ensures that the high standards of
American and Canadian forestry are enforced wherever the U.K. sources its
biomass for energy.

 

DECC’s ‘Sustainability Criteria’ have been operating since
2011 and require energy generators to demonstrate an independently verifiable
cut in carbon emissions of at least 60 per cent, compared to the EU Fossil Fuel
Grid Average – a key measure of fossil fuel emissions for electricity. The
Criteria apply across the whole supply chain.

 

The UK’s Sustainability Criteria complement American and
Canadian laws that protect forestry, such as: the Clean Water Act, Clean Air
Act, Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Coastal Zone Management
Act, Lacey Act and a range of State and Province regulations and laws.

 

Despite the limits of BEaC, the biomass industry welcomed
the tool as evidence that biomass can be effective in cutting emissions:

 

Dr Nina Skorupska, Chief Executive of the Renewable Energy
Association, said:

“This model is a very welcome demonstration that biomass,
when sourced responsibly, should be a key part of our low-carbon future.

 

Of course it’s possible to do biomass badly – just like any
other technology – but what these findings prove is that sustainable biomass
generation can make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gases.

 

What it doesn’t do, however, is consider the incentives –
both financial and regulatory – to ensure a sustainable supply chain. It’s an
under-reported success story that American foresters have been building up
forest cover over generations. A market in biomass helps them to continue this
work.

 

On top of that, the UK has developed world-leading
Sustainability Criteria that ensure at least a 60% cut in carbon emissions
compared to fossil fuels, covering the entire supply chain. Some generators are
achieving 90% reductions.

 

The BEaC model is a helpful tool to show that biomass can be
sustainable. But, as its author admits, it contains several totally unrealistic
scenarios that don’t reflect real-world practice because they leave economics
and regulation out. So we welcome it, but urge the Government to think about
how the whole supply chain works in reality.”


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