UK’s ‘renewable’ energy (about 70%) comes from bioenergy which is the burning of biomass. Every year UK imports millions of tons of wood from North America. These woods pellets are then burnt and accounts for ‘climate friendly’ electricity. 2/3rd of the EU’s renewable energy comes from bioenergy as well, however they do not have to import wood pellet as much as the UK. There are some evidences that show that bioenergy is not ‘climate friendly’. One of the reason why it is perceived as being carbon neutral is because there is a misconception that the CO2 emissions of wood combustion released in the atmosphere will be reabsorbed by tree regrowth. But some trees take decades or even centuries for the CO2 emissions to be recaptured.
The second misconception is that bioenergy is counted as carbon neutral, because it’s CO2 emissions are accounted for. This is not the case. Bioenergy emissions in the UK are not counted under UN rules for harvesting forests. The European Union’s Joint Research Council in 2011 and the UK’s government’s own science in 2013 showed that bioenergy CO2 emissions are not carbon neutral. Thus bioenergy combustion does not always result in zero greenhouse gas emissions, it might in fact be worse for the climate, by creating a ‘pulse’ of warming in the short term. These CO2 must be accounted for and there is a need of improvement.
Written by Anna Akpawu