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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 October 2005, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
Biomass energy report criticised
Scottish forest   BBC
Forests could help tackle climate change, say environmentalists
Biomass, which sees crops grown for use as environmentally friendly fuels, should be used to generate heat in the UK, a task force study has concluded.

But critics say the recommendations do not go far enough as energy suppliers are not required to source a percentage of heating fuel from renewable sources.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said it was "bitterly disappointed" by the conclusions.

Last year, the Biomass Task Force was set up to stimulate renewable energy.

Material like willow, poplar, sawdust, straw, and wood from forests are all suitable for use as a renewable energy source.

The Biomass Task Force has unveiled 42 recommendations, including a call for the introduction of capital grants to fund more biomass heating boilers.

The chairman of the task force, Sir Ben Gill, presented the findings of the study to Defra and the DTI, whose secretaries of state jointly commissioned the report.

Supporting renewable heat is going to be critical in the fight against climate change
Katie Elliott, Friends of the Earth
Sir Ben said: "What many see as tomorrow's fuel is here today. We estimate there could be 20 million tonnes of biomass available annually.

"The challenge for the government now is to unlock this vast potential.

"We have suggested several ways to develop this industry which has a vital role in climate change, sustainable development throughout the country and economic activity in rural areas."

But the CLA criticised the task force's conclusion that a Renewable Heat Obligation would be "unworkable".

A Renewable Heat Obligation would require energy suppliers to source a percentage of heating fuel from a range of renewable sources, such as willow, straw, solar power and ground heat.

Mark Hudson, CLA president, said: "Our ageing nuclear power plants mean that our future energy supply is uncertain.


"Renewable heat offers a far greater carbon saving at a much lower cost than renewable electricity.

"With this backdrop, we are astonished that the Biomass Task Force is rejecting the Renewable Heat Obligation model."

And Friends of the Earth said that without a renewable heat obligation firms would be unwilling to invest in biomass technology and farmers would be less likely to plant slow growing biomass crops.

Friends of the Earth Climate Campaigner Katie Elliott said: "Supporting renewable heat is going to be critical in the fight against climate change.

"The government is struggling to meet its carbon dioxide targets and should be listening to the very businesses and farmers who will be investing in renewable heat.

Biomass drawbacks?

"An obligation would promote sustainable technologies across the board which is ultimately what we need."

But the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds warned that biomass crops may not be the environmental panacea that many consider them to be.

Instead of helping to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change, their conversion to vehicle fuel may worsen the problem by increasing emissions, the group said.

Ministers hoped the task force, which was set up by the government, would help the UK to meet its targets for using renewable energy.

UK boost for biomass fuel crops
19 Oct 04 |  Science/Nature
Renewable energy in the home
02 Sep 04 |  Business
UK 'lagging on biomass potential'
11 May 04 |  Science/Nature

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