Response to the AECB Discussion Paper on Biomass – a burning issue.
Firstly, I must point out your sensationalist approach to releasing this paper is inappropriate and sets a tone no better than those you criticise! I am very annoyed and disappointed in the AECB’s approach and am becoming more and more concerned that you’re campaigning, responses to consultations and support for discussion papers like this one are more about pushing your own CarbonLite agenda than having a real debate, or covering your members aspirations.
Have the AECB management panel made any risk assessment of the impacts that this discussion paper has on its members in this sector, or for the debate more broadly. I suggest you haven’t, which makes me and I’m sure others in the same sector have to question if membership in the AECB is appropriate and if your agenda is now too narrow.
To the discussion paper; there appears to me to be a number of fundamental flaws in your author’s discussion paper and the AECB’s premise.
The authors fall into the trap that they and the inappropriate press release complains about, that of confusing biomass as an energy source, its carbon life cycles and emitter of PM10, PM2.5 and NOx and the issues and impacts they like and don’t like.
Just because the government don’t bring the standards for energy efficiency to where the AECB would like them to be, or that councils are setting building targets fundamentally lower than required, or that developers are developing heat and building strategies that don’t meet with the ethos of the AECB management, does not mean that well designed biomass systems and fuels are inappropriate! Renewable Energy is used as the default for the 10%+ Merton Style Rule and Biomass is one option.
You reference CO2 values of 0.46 kg/kWh from a report by Orchard Partners Ltd. without a context to the figures. Have the values picked been validated and are they comparing apples for apples, or have we a selective set of data. What validity does this article have? Is the article Harness this heat an appropriate source? I would suggest not, on the basis that the Partner’s, (Orchard Partners LTD article for bsjonline.uk) data was based on ‘CO2 footprints for the energy supply options’ table and is based on CO2 savings from piped heat in a CHP setting. Hardly convincing and not related to what you are discussing!
This same argument can go for resource values quoted. Who peer reviewed the reference documents and what experiences do they have of biomass and the whole sustainability agenda? AEA have carried out many reports in the past for government which the biomass industry have fundamentally disagreed with and especially when we look at projected resource issues.
So it appears that the way the authors have argued the case, is to change the boundaries so the argument can be made, not appropriate for a supposed serious piece of work.
They also conveniently miss a number of other critical points in their critique, such as:
• peak oil , peak gas, peak uranium – these fuels are not capable of being part of a closed loop system, unlike biomass, unless of course you can wait for thousands of years;
• environmental impacts of further extraction of more difficult and environmentally significant resources;
• how many new buildings are constructed a year, opposed to how many can be supported by biomass systems currently in the system (200,000 plus New v 25 million Existing);
• Resource utilisation through good design and clustering (individually installed systems and CHP/ Trigen) should be an integral part of any energy and community energy strategy. The UK needs an energy strategy that utilises as many different fuel sources as possible in the most effective and efficient way and yes that also includes reducing demand as well;
• Much of the combustion chip and pellet used are actually residues from the very construction processes they want to promote.
• You conveniently leave out that there is a substantial amount of wood in the UK standing (1 million odt / 2million green tonnes), that desperately needs managing – see the Forestry Commission’ Woodfuel Strategy, which highlights how much of the UK’s woodland is not in management.
I could go on but these are key examples. The discussion paper is correct in highlighting resource utilisation as a key concern; however, we have not even scratched the surface of how the UK needs an integrated approach to energy, buildings, planning, consents, supply and demand, so perhaps the debate should be broader than the one you highlight. But perhaps that doesn’t allow the AECB management the opportunity to pick their hobby horses!
Your discussion paper, I suggest may have prompted discussion and debate, however, I doubt that it has added any value to such an important issue.
I note with interest that you have now toned down your news release section. What made you do that? A realisation that it was inappropriate!