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Is large-scale biomass threatening 8700 UK jobs?

Study reveal that the increasing development of large-scale wood fired biomass energy plants in the UK could put 8700 jobs at risk and risk a 1% increase in UK carbon emissions.

The studies were commissioned by the Wood Panel Industries Federations, which is launching a campaign, Make Wood Work, to counter the effects felt by its industry from the renewables obligation (RO) subsidy regime for biomass energy.

According to the federation, wood panels are “produced from virgin and reclaimed wood – the same materials which biomass energy plants are being incentivised to burn by Government policy driven subsidy.”

The industry finds that the biomass energy sector is capable of paying higher prices for the wood panels, and is therefore pushing the federation’s members out of the market.

“In simple terms, the wood panel manufacturing sector is under threat because electricity generators, supported by subsidy, can afford to pay more than double the price currently paid by the UK wood panel industry for its primary raw material.

“The blame lies with the introduction of the RO, which has distorted the market and resulted in WPIF members seeing an average wood price increase over the last four years in excess of 30%,” the federation says.

Alastair Kerr, Director General of the Wood Panel Industries Federation, says: “The Government is putting too great an emphasis on large scale wood-fired electricity and, by subsidising generators’ ability to pay for fuel, they are threatening to destroy an industry that adds economic value and brings environmental benefit through carbon storage.

“We are not anti biomass and, indeed, as an industry we have pioneered the burning of our process-derived wood waste to generate heat and power, which is then fed back into our own manufacturing process.”

He concludes: “We are not asking for special treatment – just a level playing field.”

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