The Environmental Impact of the Use of Biomass for Power and Heat

This project aims to analyse the worldwide impact on climate and forests of the use of wood for electricity generation and heat in modern, non-traditional, technologies. 

The global demand for biomass power and heat is increasing rapidly, primarily because of government support policies aimed at reducing carbon emissions, achieving energy independence and supporting domestic industries. However, most current support policies for biomass for power and heat are based on the incorrect assumption that its use is immediately and completely carbon-neutral. This assumption underpins many public policies, with the result that biomass use is expanding, mostly to the detriment of attempts to limit climate change.

This project analyses the likely growth in global demand for wood for electricity generation and heat and the likely sources of the raw material. It assess the potential impacts, on the climate, forests and on competing forest industries, and will produce a set of recommendations for changes in national and international policy, including an assessment of the circumstances in which biomass use can contribute positively to climate and environmental goals. The findings of the project will be fed into the discussions around the 2030 climate and energy package in the EU, and the international climate negotiations currently under way.

Two papers have so far been published: 

Woody Biomass for Power and Heat: Impacts on the Global Climate assesses the impact of the use of biomass for energy on greenhouse gas emissions, how these are accounted for under international climate accounting rules, and analyses the sustainability criteria currently in use and under development to minimise negative impacts.

The Impacts of the Demand for Woody Biomass for Power and Heat on Climate and Forests is a short synthesis paper including an overview of global patterns of demand and supply for woody biomass for energy, and summarising the impacts of its use on the climate.