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Energy Minister: “better to lock up carbon rather than to burn it”

Respected waste trade press publication MrW (Material Recycling Week, affectionately known as “Mr. Waste”) has reported how Labour MP for Sterling, Anne McGuire, called upon the Coalition Government to end support for electricity-only generation from wood.

McGuire chairs the all-party group for the wood panel Industry. At the recent House of Commons debate she criticised the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) for failing to consider the policy’s impact on the wood panel market.

The article quotes the MP as saying:

Despite the introduction of the RHI, the minister cannot deny that the current incentive regime still makes burning virgin timber for electricity an attractive proposition. The best way to end market distortion and to achieve the best environmental outcomes is to end support for electricity-only generation from wood, and to exclusively support quality combined heat and power, heat generation and energy from treated wood waste.

According to McGuire, the distortion comes from UK wood demand outstripping supply meaning the policy is in danger of driving up wood prices and diverting waste wood from recycling and re-use and into energy-from-waste facilities.

She said:

The core problem remains the unsustainable and flawed support for large-scale electricity from wood.

In response, energy minister Greg Barker said:

I am very aware of unintended or perverse consequences. We will work harder to look at the consequences for the wood panel industry. Many powerful arguments were made today, not least how it is better to lock up carbon rather than to burn it, and I am mindful of that.

One thought on “Energy Minister: “better to lock up carbon rather than to burn it”

  1. Michael Black

    Wood, when carefully used, can be recycled several times before it becomes necessary to put it in its final resting place. Biomass as a means of generating electricity is inefficient at many levels. Timber is a dwindling resource on a global scale. Wood grows on trees, of course it does, but when we chop a tree down it takes 25 years to replace it; then we have to transport it, and use it primarily for construction (includes furniture) or paper. If we paint it, we should be using low-hazard paints and varnish – this means lead, arsenic and other metals should not be present. Re-use of tanalized timber, and stuff treated with phenolics and creosote is in the first instance, the most desirable thing to do.

    Theory would have it that wood preservatives can be leached out of timber under controlled conditions; even then the timber should be re-used as secondary grade. Sooner or later, all the timber used in buildings dating back to 19th century for instance, needs to be disposed of when demolition has been accomplished – again, burning is not the first option.

    Some timber can find its way into chip board, mdf and suchlike. We musn’t fall into the trap of relying on incineration. This MUST be the last resort, and the technology utilised MUST be the safest, most rigorously operated that science and engineering can provide. Business has no excuse for the systematic poisoning of the population as a result of corporate greed.

    IF we need electricity, and we DO, then safer ways of creating it must be found. An elderly lady in County Roscommon once said of the local deforestation: “They’re tearing out our lungs…”. If we burn timber direct from felling as some may be proposing then we are in line for a double whammy – the earth’s lungs are being obliterated, and ours as a species are subsequently being damaged by the after-effects of an afterthought!

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