Concerns over ‘greenness’ of Ashfield’s biomass energy plant

Environmentalists say biomass energy is not as green as it appears because it produces greenhouse gases.
Environmentalists say biomass energy is not as green as it appears because it produces greenhouse gases.

Nearly half of local-council areas in the UK, including Ashfield, are now home to at least one site that burns wood, trees or plant material to generate energy.

However, concerns have been raised by environmentalists that this rapid rise of biomass energy is not as green as it appears.

Analysis by the data unit at JPI Media, which owns the Dispatch, has found that the number of plant biomass power plants in the UK has more than trebled in four years, from 135 to 2014 to 429 in 2018. And they now generate enough renewable electricity to power about 7.4 million homes.

These sites include one in Ashfield, which opened four years ago and, in 2018, it generated 5,518 mega watt hours (MWh) of energy, which was enough to power an estimated 1,780 homes.

However, unlike other forms of green energy, biomass plants produce greenhouse gases and, across the country, the rise in biomass energy means the total greenhouse-gas emissions have nearly reached the amount produced by coal.

In mitigation, the industry says wood is sourced from renewable forests, with new trees being planted which store carbon and help to offset the emissions produced.

But environmental campaigners are calling for the biomass power plants to come under more scrutiny.

Katja Garson, of forest and climate campaign group Fern, said: “It is very concerning that, in the global push to reduce emissions, more is not being said about the climate impacts of harvesting and burning wood.”

Almuth Ernsting, of the pressure egroup Biofuelwatch, said: “For the climate, electricity from forest biomass is no better than electricity from coal.”