Biomass and renewable energy

 

Sir, – Dr Anthony White (“Wind is not a solution to our renewable energy problem”, Opinion & Analysis, October 15th) makes the case that burning wood pellet “sustainable biomass” instead of coal at Ireland’s largest C02 emitting power plant at Moneypoint “would meet Ireland’s renewable targets in one fell swoop”. Dr White advises the group Re Think Pylons and his arguments on Moneypoint are also used by Wind Aware and other groups campaigning against Ireland’s current renewable targets through wind energy.

Absent from Dr White’s and much of the anti-pylon, anti-turbine arguments promoting biomass import is the recognition of the imperative to promote a global strategy of energy demand reduction, efficiency and decarbonisation, including supporting wind energy in strategically appropriate locations.

A biomass power plant has already been granted permission in Killala, Co Mayo, relying on import of timber from Canada and the US. Bord na Móna is already burning some biomass in its Edenderry peat power plant, including imported palm kernels. This nominally reduces Irish emissions, but causes multiple adverse impacts in other countries.

Importing biomass from a highly carbon polluting country, such as the US, is not a sustainable solution to get a notional reduction in Irish emission under current EU carbon accounting rules. Furthermore the production and cultivation of different types of biomass are not carbon neutral, as they have a land use, transportation and environmental impact.

Mass-burning biomass for power generation without heat-loss recovery is inefficient in energy return. Forest thinnings are used in Sweden and Austria in combined heat and power (CHP) plants or for district heating schemes, but this is a finite source. The part conversion of coal-burning plants, such as Drax, England, to imported timber is being strongly opposed by environmental organisations in Britain on grounds of carbon and deforestation impact.

Ireland needs a rapid peat and fossil fuel exit strategy, combined with massive efficiency investment in a range of indigenously sourced or generated renewables. Moneypoint needs to close as soon as possible, but switching from coal to imported biomass does not stand up to scientific and economic evaluation. – Yours, etc,

IAN LUMLEY,

An Taisce, Dublin 8.