Sustainable building association warns that biomass is leading to higher carbon emissions

Biomass is not the green fuel that many think it is and could be responsible for higher CO2 emissions and less efficient buildings according to a report.

The sustainable building association, the AECB, which commissioned the study, claims that it is fundamentally wrong to define biomass burning as low-carbon, when it leads to similar carbon dioxide emissions per unit of heat as burning coal and releases twice as much as burning gas.

The coalition government is set to make an announcement soon on the Renewable Heat Incentive, which would reward homeowners who produce heat from renewable sources such as biomass. However, the AECB says that while it is true that trees do take up carbon dioxide when they grow this does not mean that the best use for biomass is to burn it.

Instead, it argues, the timber should be left unburnt and put to other uses such as structural timber while other heat sources, that emit less carbon dioxide than the trees have absorbed, should be used to provide the same heat requirements.

Nick Grant, co-author of the report said: “There is a lot of confusion around, with people mixing up the terms renewable, sustainable and low carbon. We need to take a step back from the seemingly endless arguments about the definition of zero carbon, and ask ourselves - what are we really trying to do here?

“I believe when you do this, it is clear that we need to go back to the simple principle of using less energy, in whatever form.”