Biggest carbon benefits from wood fiber achieved through use of wood products, promoting CHP over electricity, while biomass performs relatively poorly, finds U.K. research highlighting a carbon 'hierarchy'

EDINBURGH, Scotland , December 22, 2011 (press release) – Recent research on the best use of biomass and the carbon impacts of biomass energy generation was the focal point of a Forestry Commission Scotland seminar this week (Tuesday 20 December).

Held in support of the Renewable Obligation (Scotland) (ROS), the event brought together policy makers, climate scientists and representatives of the timber, panel and energy industries.

Independent reports by Forest Research and North Energy Associates were presented to the meeting (3) along with a policy analysis on setting thresholds for small scale energy generation (4).

The reports highlight a carbon ‘hierarchy’, where the biggest benefits in carbon terms is in putting wood fibre in to sawn timber, construction products, wood panels and promoting heat and CHP over electricity. CHP’s performance is dependent on over all efficiency and transport distances of the feedstock. Although biomass electricity provides significant carbon saving when compared to fossil fuel feedstocks, it performs relatively poorly in carbon terms.

On thresholds, Xero Energy suggested that a 10MW threshold and a limited deployment would be appropriate in the context of available Scottish wood fibre.

Cameron Maxwell, of Forestry Commission Scotland said:

“The questions posed in the ROS consultation are critical to helping ensure we have a balanced approach to using wood fibre in Scotland and also sending the correct messages to the UK Government on their Renewable Obligation proposals.

“This research has gone a long way to answer some key questions about the best use of biomass in carbon terms and what type of energy applications make the most efficient use of what is a limited resource. It is in everyone’s interest that the future vigour and vitality of both existing wood using industries and the energy sector is secured and all stakeholders have their say and contribute to the Scottish Government’s Renewables Obligation consultation.”

The event and the reports will be used to inform both government and stakeholders during the ROS consultation, which formally ends of January 13 2012.

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