A report by WWF and the European Biomass Industry Association (AEBIOM) shows that using biomass – fuel derived from agriculture and forest waste – instead of coal to generate electricity, could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about one billion tonnes.
According to the report, the UK currently generates 0.9 per cent of its total generating capacity from biomass, an equivalent of 648 megawatts of electricity, enough to provide for approximately 750,000 UK homes.
The report says that the production of biomass will create up to 400,000 jobs worldwide by 2020, particularly in rural areas.
“Decision-makers have overlooked the huge potential of biomass to deliver sustainable energy for the future, and it is a viable option for Tony Blair’s government to meet its commitment to source 10 per cent of the UK’s total electricity from renewables by 2010,” says Dr Catarina Cardoso, head of WWF-UK’s Climate Change Programme.
“The big advantage that biomass offers over other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar is that it can be stored and used when needed. Hence it can provide a constant, non-fluctuating supply of electricity.”
The report recommends that governments develop and implement policies to increase the potential for renewable energy sources such as biomass in the power sector. It calls on industrialised countries to reform their agricultural policies to support the production of energy crops for biomass.
The report further recommends that governments develop and enforce best practice guidelines for biomass production to minimize any negative social, economic, or environmental impacts.
As ministers meet at the International Conference on Renewable Energies in Bonn, Germany from 1-4 June, WWF and AEBIOM are calling for firm commitments towards increasing the share of renewable energy such as biomass at national and international levels.
The EU, specifically, must show global leadership by setting a target to supply 25 per cent of its primary energy demand from renewable energy sources by 2020.