Electricity production from solid biomass sourced in North America could in some cases emit more CO2 than coal-fired power generation, according to a report published by the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
The report finds that when naturally-regenerated forests are harvested at a greater rate for example, the emission intensity of the electricity generated is between 1,270 to 3,988 kilograms of CO2 equivalent per MWh, which is greater than coal.

However, there are many scenarios explored in the report under which the emission intensity of biomass electricity is under 200kg CO2e/MWh, when taking into account the full impact of carbon stock changes, its authors conclude.
The 200kg CO2e/MWh benchmark is the UK’s sustainability criteria for electricity from biomass. It has to be met by all plants with a capacity of 1MW or more by 2020, and new installations seeking financial support will have to comply from April next year.
The report estimates that by 2020 about 10% of electricity generated in the UK could come from forest residues and waste wood in North America.
Environmental groups such as the RSPB, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have repeatedly warned about the sustainability of biomass from North America, pointing out to a growing body of evidence suggesting that burning wood for electricity production can lead to higher emissions.

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