Comment: the biomass heat industry and electricity producers are very different…

Comment: the biomass heat industry and electricity producers are very different…

24 February 2021

If biomass has a ‘carbon debt’ that is measured between 1 – 50 years (depending upon whom you believe), then fossil fuels have a carbon debt of infinity years.

Fossil fuel burning is a net permanent addition of carbon to the atmosphere (or the wider biosphere).  This is the baseline against which all sustainable energies need be measured.  In other words, nearly anything is better than fossil fuels.

In the absence of carbon capture and storage (which will remain elusive) the CO2 from fossil fuels will never miraculously find its own way back underground.

If there is a difference between Drax Power and UK wood pellet producers it’s that Drax is burning pellets for making electricity, which is inherently inefficient.

Only 30% of the original energy value of the pellets is delivered to the user in the form of electricity (the same applies to coal).

By contrast wood pellets used for heating applications deliver 85%.

Biomass is best used in small-scale heating installations and heat networks as a direct replacement for fossil fuels. This is a position that even Greenpeace supports.

If you manage feedstock sources sensibly and sustainably, as the UK and Western European biomass industry already does, and maintain short, reliable supply chains, then biomass has proven its credentials to displace >90% of emitted carbon versus fossil fuels.

The 2.3m UK households and businesses that are not connected to mains gas and have historically been limited to burning oil, now have a low carbon energy choice in the form of biomass.

The biomass heat industry and the electricity producers such as Drax Power are very different.

John Westmacott

Managing Director Land Energy