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January 4, 2012

We only have until 12 January to respond to a government consultation on the level of subsidy given to bioenergy projects such as as the biofuel power station at Portland Port, and numerous other biofuel and biomass projects throughout the UK. If the subsidies remain or are increased then there will be little we can do to stop these socially and environmnetally destructive schemes. We need to send a strong message to the government that we do not want to subsidise these projects. The action alert below is cross-posted from Biofuelwatch, and it is easier to take action on their site, where there are automated forms that will let you send emails to your MP and to DECC. Please click the link and take action today:

Renewables Obligation: No to subsidies for destructive biomass and biofuel electricity

Please take part in two simultaneous email actions and tell your MP and the government that renewable energy support should go to clean, sustainable real renewables, such as sustainably sited wind, solar and tidal energy, and not to destructive biomass and bioliquid electricity.

If you have more time and can visit your MP’s surgery to discuss the government’s renewables electricity policy, this could be particularly effective.

Please note: For those living in Scotland, there is a separate Scottish consultation on the Renewables Obligation. You can respond to the Scottish consultation here.

The government believes it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by providing finance to renewable energy technologies through subsidies called Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) . As well as providing support for clean technologies like wind farms, ROCs also finance electricity from biomass and bioliquids, which have been shown to increase greenhouse gas emissions, cause deforestation, and worsen air quality locally.

The sourcing of biofuels and biomass from overseas has been widely implicated (directly and indirectly) in human rights abuses – including the forced eviction of people from their land and inhumane treatment of workers. The Renewables Obligation also subsidises the incineration of waste, which can be derived from fossil fuels, thus worsening air quality and discouraging recycling.

The Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change is currently consulting on the level of support to be given from April 2013 to all types of electricity classed as renewable, including from biomass and bioliquids. They propose to continue to support biomass on an unlimited scale – even more than at present as far as co-firing of biomass with coal is concerned. They also propose to support the burning of up to 400,000 tonnes of bioliquids per year (on top of the large-scale use of biofuels for transport). If all this bioliquid were palm oil – a realistic prospect given that this is by far the cheapest vegetable oil – then 110,000 hectares of new oil palm plantations would be needed.

The Renewable Obligation Scheme is financed through money taken from our fuel bills, so it is OUR MONEY that is being spent. If things stay as they are, it will cost us up to £3 billion every year by 2020 to fund this dirty, false solution at the expense of people and the planet.

Enough is enough: if the UK is to hold itself out as a world leader in providing solutions to the climate crisis and respecting human rights, it must stop spending our money on these false solutions.

Instead, it must focus on the true solutions: curbing our energy consumption by investing in home insulation schemes and in better public transport networks, and by promoting genuine and sustainable renewables such as appropriately sited wind, wave, and solar energy. Germany for example has already installed 17 GW of solar PV (250 times the UK), and is forecasted to have nearly 30 GW in 2020, whereas DECC is suggesting the UK will have up 6 GW of biomass by 2020, and only 2.6 GW of solar PV.

Please contact your MP today to ask him or her to raise the issues with Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and to vote against the proposals when they come to the House of Commons in early 2012.

It would be very helpful if you could copy any correspondence you may get back from your MP to

Please personalise your letter to your MP if at all possible – and if you can visit your MP to talk about your concerns, that could be particularly effective. More background information on ROCs..

Dear [name],

I am writing to express my concern that through the Renewables Obligation Order, money from my fuel bill provides finance for generating electricity from biomass, bioliquids, and waste incineration, supporting companies involved in activities that are environmentally destructive and which damage human rights. If the anticipated expansion of bio-electricity materialises, annual subsidies of up to £3bn will be paid in 2020 to generating companies.

Under the current consultation on the Renewables Obligation Banding Review, DECC proposes to continue to finance biomass electricity on an unlimited scale, and also to provide finance for up to 400,000 tonnes of bioliquids to be burnt in each year in power stations, despite the evidence that biomass, bioliquids, and waste incineration are highly damaging for people and the planet. The questions in the consultation focus on economic factors alone and ignore all sustainability impacts.

In particular, I have the following concerns:

– Increased carbon dioxide emissions: unlike wind and solar, biomass and bioliquid electricity results in higher not lower carbon emissions. Emissions from burning biomass are around 50% higher than those from burning coal per unit of energy. The Committee on Climate Change has expressed concern that the large scale use of biomass electricity would hinder rather than help the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy.

– A threat to health: biomass and bioliquids produce significant levels of local air pollution affecting health in this country, as well as black carbon (soot) which accelerates polar ice melt. Per unit of energy, biomass burning produces similar levels of air pollution as coal burning – but even higher levels of nitrogen dioxide and small particulates which are linked to respiratory and heart diseases. The Environmental Audit Committee recently found that the Government is already putting thousands of UK lives at risk by not adequately addressing air quality problems, and the European Environment Agency has just reported on air quality noting with concern the increasing use of wood burning in Europe.

– A threat to food production: the great majority of biomass and bioliquids used to generate electricity will continue to be imported. The experience with transport biofuels is that land, water, and farming capacity (land and labour) is diverted from food production. Food shortages mean hunger, displacement and reduced life chances for people in the Global South.

– Human rights abuses: the production of biofuels and biomass overseas is associated with human rights abuses, land grabs, rainforest deforestation, malnutrition, soil & water pollution. Yet the sustainability criteria proposed by the UK on biomass do not even recognise the need to protect human rights.

– An inefficient source of electricity: biomass power generation is a highly inefficient process. Up to 75% of the energy available in the biomass is wasted as heat.

– Waste incineration a false solution: The energy generated by incinerating waste is a small proportion of that which would be saved by recycling and reducing the same materials, while causing emissions of a particularly large range of dangerous toxins. Under EU legislation, energy from fossil-fuel derived waste is not renewable, so including it into the Renewables Obligation may even contravene EU law. For more background information and references about the above, please see .

I would ask you to:

1. Share the concerns about Renewable Obligation Certificates for bioliquids, biomass and waste with Chris Huhne during the consultation, including the concerns about sustainability impacts having been entirely ignored in the consultation.

2. Please sign Early Day Motion 2428 about Biomass and Bioliquids for Electricity Generation.

3. Please call for a debate on the issue and a full parliamentary vote.

4. Vote against ROCs for biofuels, biomass and waste incineration if the opportunity rises.

The government should re-direct funds earmarked for bio-electricity towards curbing energy consumption, and to supporting genuinely sustainable renewable energy solutions such as appropriately sited wind, tidal and solar energy.

I look forward to your response and to seeing correspondence on this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Action 2: Email the UK Dept of Energy and Climate Change (UK and non UK residents)


Consultation about the Renewables Obligation Banding Review 11D/876

I am responding to the Consultation on the Renewables Obligation Banding Review. I call on DECC to remove ROCs for bioliquids, biomass and waste incineration.

The Banding Review is not fit for its purpose – One of the primary aims of the banding review is to ‘contribute to the effective delivery of wider energy and climate change goals to 2050, including Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions reductions, decarbonising of the UK grid and energy security’. The consultation does not, however, compare the carbon emitted by different renewable technologies.
Unlike the other renewables under review, bioliquids and biomass –
* Increase carbon emissions rather than reducing them. Biomass electricity produces 50% more carbon emissions than coal. Bioliquids produce more GHG emissions than fossil fuels.
* Produce black carbon (a significant global warming agent) that adversely affects polar ice caps.
* Lead to deforestation and other ecosystem destruction releasing further carbon emissions.
* Rely on imported feedstock from land overseas which is not ‘renewable’ or provide energy security.

The scope of the Banding Review is narrow and inadequate. The review only addresses economic factors and ignores sustainability impacts when the Secretary of State is required to do so. The review specifically fails to consider the well-known issues associated with industrial scale bioenergy, i.e.:

* Human rights abuses, including land grabs.
* The effect on food security and food sovereignty
* Biodiversity loss.
* Adverse effects on soil and water health.
* Pesticide poisoning of livestock and people.
* Threats to health from local air pollution. Biomass burning produces similar levels of air pollution as coal burning, with even higher levels of nitrogen dioxide and small particulates.

The consultation is prejudicial to the outcome of the review. The Foreword by the Secretary of State makes the assumed and preferred role of biomass clear: ‘maximise deployment of the cheapest renewable technologies, such as coal-to-biomass conversions and co-firing.’
The review ignores or contradicts other findings and guidance:

* The Committee on Climate Change has expressed concern that the large scale use of biomass electricity would hinder rather than help the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy and that there is no place for it after 2020 due to concerns about high carbon emissions, low conversion efficiency and security of feedstock due to lack of global land.

* The Environmental Audit Committee recently found that the Government is not adequately addressing air quality problems, and the European Environment Agency’s 9 November 2011 report on air quality noted with concern the increasing use of wood burning in Europe.

* The consultation has been published before the UK Bioenergy Strategy report – expected by the end of 2011 – has assessed the sustainability and CO2 impacts of bioenergy.

Biomass power generation is a highly inefficient process. Up to 75% of the energy available in the biomass is wasted as heat. This is contrary to requirements in the EU Renewable Energy Directive and the draft Energy Efficiency Directive.

In a time of austerity measures and cuts to public services it is unacceptable in my view to commit up to £3b of public money per year to fund bioelectricity when this will exacerbate climate change, and deprive truly low-carbon renewable energy of needed support.

Yours faithfully,

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