The UK was the largest importer and consumer of wood pellets to fuel biomass power stations in 2015, according to a new report from the US.
The USDA Foreign Agriculture Service’s Global Agricultural Information Network research showed that the world’s biggest wood pellet market is the European Union. The EU used around 20.5 tonnes of wood pellets last year, with around 35 per cent of these being used to produce electricity. But next year, the figure is forecast to increase to 22.5 million tonnes. Overall, around three quarters of the international market for wood pellets is within the EU.
The UK came out on top as both the biggest consumer and importer of wood pellets last year. Britain is expected to use around 7.2 million tonnes during 2016, up from the 6.5 million tonnes imported last year.
According to many environmental groups, biomass power stations are often misleadingly presented as a greener way of producing energy. However, in addition to releasing carbon in the burning process, much of the wood pellets burned for biomass have to be shipped to the UK, further increasing the carbon footprint of this type of energy generation. In fact, the majority of the wood pellets for biomass burning imported to the UK come from the US, followed by Canada.
Use Wood Wisely campaigns against the burning of timber to generate energy and instead encourages implementation of the hierarchy of wood use in order to lock up carbon for generations, rather than release it into the atmosphere upon burning, for example by using wood in construction.