Across Europe, there is growing demand for large scale biomass plants, which are proposed as a renewable alternative to dirty, finite fossil fuels.
In Scotland, Forth Energy, a company formed by Scottish and Southern Energy and Forth Ports Limited, is proposing to build four huge biomass plants at Rosyth, Dundee, Grangemouth, and Leith.
Biomass is plant matter used to generate electricity and produce energy from heat. The most conventional way it is used is by incineration. Materials used are wood, forest residues (branches, wood chips, dread tress, branches, tree stumps), and rubbish.
There are numerous misconceptions surrounding this supposedly green alternative:
A report has shown that Scotland will not be able to meet its increasing demand for wood. Yet by subsidising biomass, the Scottish government continues to promote the use of of large-scale biomass for energy. Wood production is less than 0.5m tonnes per year in Scotland, yet the Forth Energy proposals will burn over 5,3m tonnes per year.
Burning biomass releases large amounts of solid carbon combustion particles and gases into the air and there is uncertainty about the impact of these emissions on human health. The UK is currently failing to meet legally binding EU air quality standards in many areas, including in areas in Scotland where biomass plants are proposed.
Forests are the most complex ecosystems on Earth, home to a multitude of species of plants and animals. Due to deforestation across the planet many species are now extinct and others are endangered. With imports from biomass set to skyrocket to between 27-60m tonnes per year in the UK, it is highly likely that this will be an additional cause of deforestation and subsequent pressure on species living in native forests.
Forth Energy’s proposals are primarily intended to generate electricity. Biomass for electricity is incredibly inefficient and requires a lot of wood to produce a small amount of energy. It is estimated that the plants will be 30% efficient. This would be in breach of EU legal standards, which require 70% efficiency rates. Although Forth Energy promises to supply thermal energy as well as electrical energy, the proportion of heat proposed is small in relation to the proportion of electricity.
Our independently commissioned research shows that Scotland can meet 183% of its electricity needs through much greener sources such as wind and tidal energy, not inefficient biomass for electricity.
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