MPs to debate whether biomass should fuel energy transition


Plans to convert coal-fired power stations in the Netherlands to biomass fuel are being debated on Tuesday, with MPs divided on the environmental impact.

The cabinet ended subsidies for biomass two years ago because of concerns about the effect of burning waste timber. But the industry argues that biomass will be a key part of the energy transition when coal is banned as a fuel in 2030.

André Bosman, managing director of Uniper Benelux, said: “Biomass is actually the waste product of the timber industry. We’re not burning trees. Burning biomass is an important part of making our energy more sustainable.”

He estimated that adapting coal-fired stations to run on biomass fuel will cost between €500 million and €1 billion, but investors will not start funding the project until they know the government’s position.

The industry says the switch, combined with capturing CO2 beneath the North Sea and planting new trees, will reduce carbon dioxide emissions as the trees absorb CO2.

But animal rights party PvdD called the argument a “fairy-tale”. MP Christine Teunissen said: “It takes 50 years for a tree to start absorbing CO2. Planting more trees is a good move in the long term, but it takes a very long time.”

The PvdD has tabled an amendment which would block the coal-fired industry from adoping biomass, arguing that the damage to nature, the climate and public health is too great.

City heating

Other parties, such as the Christian Democrats, have criticised the PvdD’s objections as “ill thought through”.

CDA leader Henri Bontenbal said banning biomass would cause problems for people in areas such as Brabant, which rely on coal for heating.

“We can’t just find another source of heat for Breda and Tilburg,” Bontenbal said. “That needs to be sorted out before we stop.”

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