Biomass blues

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

Were you someone who immediately thought that there was a problem with using biomass to fuel large power stations (such as Drax)?  Did you say,

'Hang on a bit!  Why are we trucking wood products to US ports, shipping them across the Atlantic, and then using 14 diesel trains a day to finally get them to Drax?  Can the government’s promise that there'd be no net emissions [of CO2] during production really be true?'

Did you think that this sounded a bad idea as it would be expensive, make air pollution worse, increase our dependency on foreign energy and, compared to gas, make more greenhouse gas – and soot?  Did you ask your sixth form students these questions?  Did you get them to investigate?

Or did you cheer because you were excited at yet more 'renewable' electricity?  The owners of Drax were as they anticipated all that subsidy (some say up to £500m a year) – as were everyone who'd fitted biomass boilers at home and the are now getting the domestic renewable heat incentive (RHI) payments.

Times have changed, however.  It seems that Mr Gove is going to (in the jargon) ...

"conduct a cross-departmental review into the role of biomass in future policy for low carbon energy and heat, focusing on the air quality impacts.”

Good.  Rather late, of course, but good!  Meanwhile, it's been  good few days for Drax.  As I type this, biomass is the third largest source of fuel for UK electricity (7%).  This is because there's no wind.  It won't last, of course;as the day develops solar will rise from its current 7% to around 25% in the middle of the day.  This is, of course, something to celebrate.

Postscript on June 30th.

Climate Action reported that UK renewable electricity provided a 30% of UK "power needs" (they mean electricity) over the first three months of 2018.  Headlines include:

  • The amount – 27.9 terawatt hours – is a 10% increase on the same time last year.
  • Wind power provided 19% of the total
  • all low-carbon sources (including nuclear) was 48%
  • the government’s climate advisers warn that not enough is being done to decarbonise other key parts of the economy. The Committee on Climate Change’s annual  report highlighted the strong progress in the electricity sector, but that this has come at the detriment of heating, transport and agriculture.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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