A new 300MW biomass power plant, with the expected capacity to supply a quarter of homes in Wales with energy, has been approved, prompting anger from environmental groups.
Energy Minister Charles Hendry claimed that the new plant in Anglesey would provide “a secure, flexible and renewable source of power” for Wales. He received criticism from the environmental group Friends of the Earth, which argued that it would put Britain’s forest at risk. Mr Hendry said that it was crucial for the UK to develop new and more varied sources of energy production: “We want a balanced energy portfolio and we want biomass to play a key role in this.”
Kenneth Richter, biofuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth (FOE) argued: “If demand rises for wood it could push up prices a lot and potentially this could represent a danger even for British woodland – especially if more of it is privatised.”
The group also said that if the plant was to go ahead, a third of Anglesey currently used to produce food would be have to be turned over to biomass crops. At a time when the world’s resources are stretched already, FOE claimed the decision was ‘lunacy’, and made it clear they would oppose the decision at every turn.
A panel of 19 European experts on the subject expressed their concerns about the government’s proposed wider carbon advantages of biomass and biofuels, collectively known as bioenergy.
“It’s widely assumed that bioenergy is inherently carbon-neutral. However this assumption is flawed. The potential consequence of this bioenergy accounting error is enormous,” said the scientific committee of the European Environment Agency in the report shown to the international news agency Reuters.
As well as the environmental lobby, the timber industry expressed their scepticism over the plans for the plant. It will require the sourcing of 200,000 tonnes a year of bioenergy crops from farms in the area, as well as the importation of around 2.4m tonnes of wood from abroad. A timber industry source said that prices have already risen by 50% over the past three years as energy companies look for new supplies for their biomass plants.
In view of all the downsides to the new plant, it means that around 600 construction jobs and 100 full-time operating posts.