DECC is currently consulting on proposed “sustainability standards” for solid and gaseous biomass that will be awarded ROCs subsidy from 2013 – see http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/consultations/biomass_ro/biomass_ro.aspx
There plans to build an alarming number of very large new biomass power stations, as well as to convert some of the older, dirtier coal-fired stations to firing biomass. Most of the biomass would have to be imported – as much already is.
The RSPB has published information on this (see for example http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/Bioenergy_a_burning_issue_1_tcm9-288702.pdf
), as have the campaign group Biofuelwatch (eg at http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2012/biomass_myth_report/
Currently these plants receive ROCs for burning pretty much anything; astonishingly, although the EU has set targets for renewables it does require any sustainability standards for biomass, so I suppose DECC could be congratulated for at least having a go. But in my opinion what they propose is so feeble they might as well not have bothered.
DECC are proposing to require that the production, processing (including drying) and transport emissions should not exceed 240 – 285 kgCO2e/MWh electricity – the current grid average being around 500 and falling, and the emissions from wind, solar and energy efficiency clearly being a great deal lower.
However the way DECC propose to calculate the emissions from biomass completely omit the emissions from actually burning the biomass, despite the fact that these are initially higher than from coal-fired generation at the moment of combustion, and even if they are subsequently taken up again, the cumulative impact over the years or decades this takes, means there is a considerable climate forcing effect, but this is totally ignored.
I have said what I think about this in reply to a DECC blog http://blog.decc.gov.uk/2012/11/22/using-wood-for-bioenergy/#comment-57849
(as have Nick Grant and Mark Brinkley)- the blog was itself a response to an RSPB/FoE report condemning the proposals to burn whole trees, which lead to a particularly long “carbon debt”.
I am also planning to respond to the consultation. My very draft response is here (pdf below), but this is just for interest (and comment if anyone is so moved); David Olivier has already suggested some very useful changes which I will incorporate and share tomorrow, but I wanted to post something this evening.