Earlier this year, DEFRA published a report by the Air Quality Expert Group into the impacts of biomass on air quality. The results make for startling reading.
Among the findings are:
1) Emissions of PM10 and PM2.5 from biomass more than doubled between 2002 and 2012, mainly due to domestic wood combustion and straw burning.
Biomass emissions of PM2.5 now account for almost 25% of national ones. By contrast, road transport’s share in 2012 was only 21%.
Figures for PM10 are 17% and 20% respectively.
2) These figures for biomass are already well out of date, and almost certainly grossly understate the real figures. According to the Report, a new study by DECC last year only published after this Report was drafted) claimed that the true figure for domestic wood consumption was three times as great as previously thought. This would push up emissions of PM2.5 from 10.6 to 31.0 Kt, meaning that domestic combustion alone was responsible for 30% of the UK’s emissions of PM2.5 in 2012.
3) There have been similar large rises in the share of emissions of carcinogenic benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) and dioxins, as emissions have declined from other sources:
4) A typical domestic stove emits 6.7 g/h of PMs, compared to just 0.17 g/h for the most modern diesel cars, and much more than even HGVs.
Domestic boilers will, of course, be particularly problematic in winter months. Research suggests that wood burning could account for up to 25% of ambient PMs during winter in urban areas.
5) The rapid growth in biomass energy has been the direct result of extremely generous government subsidies.
Subsidies via the Renewable Heat Incentive alone this year will amount to £700 million, according to OBR figures. On top of that are the subsidies, via RO and CfD, which the likes of Drax are paid.
Biomass emissions must already be greater than the 2012 figures used in this Report.
Since 2012, electricity produced from biomass has more than doubled, with Drax at the forefront, and will increase again this year as Drax’s third unit comes fully on stream.
It is deeply ironic, not to say disturbing, that the government has decided to demonize cars, whilst at the same time incentivizing a potentially greater source of pollution.
Read more at Not a lot of People Know That