Biomass could provide a viable source of energy while helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but “only if good practice is followed,” according to a new report from the Environment Agency.
“Biomass — carbon sink or carbon sinner?” finds that best-practice use of biomass could produce 98 per cent fewer emissions than coal. Such an approach could reduce greenhouse gases by more than three million tonnes per year by 2020.
On the other hand, a worst-practice approach could make biomass energy a greater source of carbon emissions than gas, the report states.
Best-practice use would require the Government to ensure that all biomass generators publicly report the emissions created by production, transport and biomass fuel consumption, according to the report. The document also recommends that the Government be ready to set minimum standards if necessary, and to provide greater incentives for combined heat and power plants rather than traditional electricity-only plants.
Biomass heat and power currently provides 2.3 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs and 1 per cent of its heating requirements.
“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,” said Tony Grayling, head of climate change and sustainable development at the Environment Agency. “We want to ensure that 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 that biomass comes from sustainable sources, and is used efficiently to deliver the greatest greenhouse gas savings and the most renewable energy.”