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According to a new report from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), increasing demand for woodfuel worldwide, including in the UK, is helping to increase the number of foreign-owned plantations in developing countries, at the cost of food security.
At the same time, the amount of waste wood being exported from the UK to the continent for fuel is expanding “very rapidly” and could account for up to 500,000 tonnes of material by the end of the year, says Toby Beadle, technical advisor for the Wood Recyclers’ Association.
Rising UK demand alone, fuelled by the Renewable Heat Incentive and other initiatives, could lead to an almost doubling of world trade in wood chips and pellets, according to John Clegg Consulting. Wood already accounts for 67% of global renewable energy supplies.
Waste wood can only meet part of the expected rise in UK demand, which is partly due to the UK’s National Renewable Energy Action Plan, which stipulates that under the European Renewable Energy Directive the UK must reach a target for 15% of energy consumption in 2020 to be from renewable sources.
Europe is not alone in creating a higher global demand for woodfuel: in South Korea, the recently approved Renewable Portfolio Standard requires utilities to source 10% of their electricity supplies from new and renewable sources, including biomass, by 2022, and in the United States a quarter of all national energy is to be supplied from renewable sources, including biomass, by 2025.
A new book – ‘Let them eat carbon’ from TaxPayers’ Alliance Director Matthew Sinclair – looks at the record and cost of climate change policies, and the special interests that profit.
It is said to provide new insights into the cost of major regulations driving up energy prices, particularly the Renewables Obligation and the EU Emissions Trading System.
In 2009-10 the Renewables Obligation cost over £1.1 billion, equivalent to an additional £40 a family (up from under £900 million in 2007-08). The figure includes the subsidies paid to the biomass industry to burn wood, which are funded by rises in energy prices and are said to directly threaten 2.4 million jobs across the UK’s and European wood associated industries.
Matthew Sinclair says: “Regulations that are supposed to cut greenhouse gas emissions are adding to energy bills, and making it much harder for a lot of people to make ends meet. At the same time manufacturers are finding it harder to compete and jobs are being lost as industrial capacity relocates to other countries not placing the same burden on industry. The only ones who benefit are a handful of big businesses that can make billions in profits at the expense of ordinary consumers. With the dismal failure of these policies, and the cost mounting, it is vital that we scrap them.”
You can read more about the book and Matthew’s views in the TPA’s press release.
The Make Wood Work website has highlighted that MP Anne McGuire, chair of the wood panel industry All-Party Parliamentary Group, has tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) which highlights the strengths of the wood panel industry, the danger posed to it by large-scale biomass and calls on the Government to rethink the way it supports biomass energy.
You can directly support the motion by downloading a letter available on the Make Wood Work website and sending it to your MP, asking them to sign EDM 1788.