Stranded carbon assests

Even before the COP21 Paris event, some UK investors were calling on companies and local authorities to divest from fossil fuel companies.  With groups such as Go fossil free and Friends of the Earth (FOE) pushing the message to divest.

Also with organisations like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calling for most of the remaining fossil fuels to remain in the ground in their latest report IPCC 5th report.  And Carbon Tracker’s report on Stranded assets danger zone, as well as others.  The UK Government has increased subsidies for fossil fuels and pushing ahead with ‘fracking’.

The Government states it needs ‘fracking’ to ensure security of supply.  But has shut down the last deep coal mine, in favour of imported coal?  It is also heavily reliant on imported biomass, for incineration and co-firing?  And new nuclear will be dependant on imported uranium imports?

Is biomass really dirtier than coal? – Response from the Initiat

I thought I would post Andrew Llanwarne’s letter in response to iCARBS press release against the FoE, Greenpeace and RSPB report on Biomass: Dirtier than Coal? Any form of incineration produces CO, CO2, NOx and particulates, and is an old technology.  But the UK Government keeps trying to push incineration, biomass and waste, as the answer to our energy problems.  It also does not have the strict regulations, standards and enforcement that the rest of the EU has.  It is time the UK Government rethinks it’s strategy towards renewable energy and adopts a strategy fit for the 21st Century and not it’s 19th Century one.

Thu Nov 29, 2012 3:17 am (PST) . Posted by:

“Andrew Llanwarne” andrew.llanwarne

The Biomass Energy Centre report referred to below challenges the findings in the Dirtier than Coal report, based largely on the practices and pricing structure in the UK timber market, with only a passing reference to overseas markets which would be the primary sources of timber for major UK biomass power stations. There is reference at the end to the “extensive work” of the British Govt with industry and NGOs in ensuring overseas supplies will be sustainable, but there is plenty of evidence elsewhere to show that these standards are not assured by assessors paid by the developers. These sources do not seem to take into account the very poor efficiency standards which push up emissions relative to output when timber is used for electricity generation. Locally based CHP or heat-only is the best way to use biomass for energy, where it can make use of locally-sourced waste materials and surplus timber. This is the Scottish Government’s stated policy, but its proposals for future allocation of ROCs are directly contrary to the policy. Although Scottish Government proposes to limit subsidies for electricity-

only plants to 10MW, there is a loophole for biomass power stations of any capacity with a token heat production such as those proposed by Forth Energy (SSE and Forth Ports joint venture). These Scottish plants will only have to meet the DECC “good quality” efficiency standard of 35%, which is only half the 70% efficiency requirement from the EU for CHP production. A second loophole has been left for converting coal-fired power stations to biomass, in the belief that this will result in reduced emissions. The RSPB report undermines that belief.
The overall plea from ICARB is for more careful analysis and peer review, which is a reasonable request, but decisions are being made now on large-scale biomass for electricity developments across the UK, Europe and elsewhere. These will tie us in to reliance on a massive scale of overseas timber production for at least the next 25 years, dramatically increase demand on world markets and ensure that, even if some companies manage to secure relatively “sustainable” supplies, others will have few scruples over social and environmental standards if their investments are at risk. The EU Biofuels Directive has demonstrated what happens to communities and ecosystems when there is a sudden increase in demand for different commercial crops. Any assessment really has to look at the systemic consequences of UK policies on a global scale. The findings would be unlikely to support the large-scale use of imported biomass to generate electricity. Andrew Andrew Llanwarne
8 Glasclune Way
Broughty Ferry
Dundee DD5 3TJ
Tel: 01382 732457
Mob: 0791 294 5325
Sustainable Solutions….Working with Knowledge….Exploring the FutureTo:
Date: Wed, 28 Nov 2012 17:56:29 +0000
Subject: [localsustuk] Is biomass really dirtier than coal? – Response from the Initiative for Carbon (ICARB)Hi all,

Please see the press release below and please forward to others.

For those of you who don’t know about us I should stress that it’s highly unusual for us to decide to go to the press.

Cheers and thanks,



Is biomass really dirtier than coal?

Contact Prof Susan Roaf / Dr Keith Baker 0788 412 5540 /

Is biomass really dirtier than coal? This is what is being claimed in a new report by RSPB, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth [1].

However the report, called ‘Dirtier Than Coal’, is based largely on a new paper by Tim Searchinger of Princeton University [2] that has yet to be peer-reviewed.

ICARB [3] questions why the authors of the ‘Dirtier Than Coal’ do not appear to have consulted the UK-based experts whose peer-reviewed work is referenced by Searchinger.

The Biomass Energy Centre has issued a critical response to the report [4] and ICARB welcomes further submissions from those named in the reports.

We have previously raised concerns over carbon accounting-based claims for biomass because of a lack of transparency and peer-review. In this case ICARB wants to raise that Searchinger’s understanding of practices specific to the UK has been questioned by at least one of the

authoritative sources he references.

ICARB is not commenting on specific aspects of these reports but we do call for a more balanced coverage of the work.

[1] The report, published by RSPB, Greenpeace (UK), and Friends of the Earth (England, Wales

and Northern Ireland), is available at:

[3] The Initiative for Carbon Accounting (ICARB) exists to advance the field of carbon accounting to facilitate the reductions in carbon emissions necessary for a sustainable society. We are an independent expert group supported by Heriot-Watt University, Glasgow Caledonian University, the Crichton Carbon Centre, and the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, and funded by the Scottish Government. Website: