(New) Renewable Energy ‘scandal’

EU countries – including Portugal – cover up use of ‘forest-felled trees’

A report released today by the Forest Defenders Alliance accuses the biomass industry of burning forest felled trees “in the name of renewable energy”.

Companies throughout the EU, including Portuguese ones, say they “only use sawdust and other waste” –  but this is a lie.

“How the EU burns Trees in the name of Renewable Energy” has done its research. The document “shows photographs supposedly taken from these industries in which large amounts of logs can be seen”, writes Lusa news agency.

Portuguese environmentalists ZERO are part of the effort. The NGO has said in a statement the report “demonstrates what has long been known: that many biomass power plants for electricity production and pellet factories in the EU are using trees directly felled from forests”.

This way of producing energy completely “undermines the EU’s climate goals and the restoration of ecosystems”, says the association, stressing that scientists and European Commission advisors have been trying to raise these flags for some time.

The report shows 40 photographs of biomass and ‘pellet’ plants (agglomerated wood waste usually for domestic heating) that “supposedly use tree trunks”, writes Lusa.

This “does not match the advertising on their websites”.

The report concludes that a quarter of the companies “make misleading claims, omitting that they use tree trunks”.

The report has been released just as EU leaders, including European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, have been expressing alarm about the amount of trees being burned to produce energy.

They have pledged to reform biomass policy, ZERO adds, citing a report from last year in which it “identifies wood burning as a loss for nature and the climate, and argues that wood burning in the EU emits over 311 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year (the equivalent of all greenhouse gas emissions reported by Spain) – with biomass being subsidised to the tune of around €17 billion per year”.

“Europe must realise that it is currently unable to meet the demand for biomass for energy from waste”, ZERO continues. 

“This report shows how the burning of logs is a fact of life, and how important it is that the EU stops counting the unsustainable burning of forest biomass towards renewable energy targets.” 

In relation only to Portugal, ZERO’s president Francisco Ferreira refers to a report the association released last year which concluded that “quality wood logs are being burned to produce electricity or make pellets”.

Hopes now are that the new minister for the environment (Duarte Cordeiro) and climate action will “evaluate and reformulate public support to forest biomass power plants. 

There should be more public information about the sector, and the government should only allow the use of waste forest biomass in power plants”, says ZERO.

The definition of a biomass power plant, is one that produces electricity from the “combustion of biomass, generated from organic matter of animal or plant origin”, Lusa adds.