Sunday 31 May 2020

Biomass-fired electricity plants are on balance more polluting than coal: report

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Power stations which burn wood, food waste and other plant-based products emit more carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide than coal-fired power stations, according to an as-yet unpublished report drawn up for the infrastructure ministry.

Generating the same amount of power in a biomass power station creates more pollutants than traditional coal because the process is less efficient and needs more fuel, the AD reported. And compared with gas, biomass emits twice as much nitrogen-based pollution.

The Netherlands has agreed to close its remaining coal-fired power stations by 2030 in an effort to meet the Paris agreements on climate change. The government has also pledged to end the production of gas from under the province of Groningen in 2020.

The government is pumping billions of euros in subsidies into building biomass plants and wood which is seen by the EU as a climate-neutral source of energy because the carbon dioxide is absorbed by newly-planted trees.

According to research by the AD, 628 biomass installations in the Netherlands will get some €11.4bn in subsidies in the coming years, of which €2.6bn is going to the RWE power plants in Geertruidenberg and Eemshaven.

And RWE will import thousands of tonnes of wood pellets from the US next year to burn in Dutch biomass power plants in a move that has been strongly criticized by local campaign groups.

Wasting money

Earlier this month, the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) said that governments should stop wasting billions of euros on subsidising biomass power plants because it is unsustainable.

EASAC also said burning wood does not produce very much energy and the net amount of CO2 which is released is greater than when burning coal or gas.

A number of regional health boards (GGDs) have also written to economic affairs minister Erik Wiebes warning him to be aware of the impact climate change policies can have on health.

Plans to build more biomass-fired power stations plus wind and solar farms will all have an effect on humans but the health ministry has not been involved in the talks, the boards say.

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