February 18, 2024

The UK’s National Audit Office critique of biomass subsidies missed the key point

See our letter to the NAO here.

The National Audit Office (NAO) of the UK recently produced a report showing it’s quite likely that woody biomass (trees and other wood) burned in the UK doesn’t meet the UK’s biomass sustainability criteria, which if true means that generators producing biomass energy (like Drax) shouldn’t be receiving renewable energy subsidies. That’s a big story, because Drax has received billions in public support.

However, the NAO report missed an even bigger story – that the biomass criteria themselves are incapable of protecting forests and the climate. A multitude of analyses show that burning trees to generate electricity is not “carbon neutral” or even “low carbon” as the government claims. That means the billions spent in subsidies for tree-burning power plants like Drax are actually making climate change worse.

Looking forward, it also means the government’s plans to couple biomass energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) will not be capable of delivering “negative emissions.”  This is a huge problem for the government’s climate planning, given the role BECCS is supposed to play. So huge, the FLC’s Lifescape Project is taking the government to court over “irrational” support for biomass and BECCS as laid out in the 2023 Biomass Strategy.

We wrote the NAO to lay out the problems with their report and ask that they re-engage to produce an actual science-based analysis of whether the government’s support for biomass provides value for money. It’s urgent they do so, as the UK government appears determined to continue financial support for tree-burning power plants after 2027, when the current round of subsidies ends (the government is taking comment on this proposal until Feb. 29).

See our letter to the NAO here.