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Volume 506: debated on Thursday 4 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what recent estimate he has made of the annual requirement for biomass for burning in (a) power stations and (b) for renewable heat; and what proportion of that requirement (i) is currently imported and (ii) will be imported in each of the next five years. (320002)

[holding answer 3 March 2010]: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping), Official Report, 23 February 2010, column 466W which gave estimates for the amount of biomass needed for new power stations. For existing heat and power installations, the Department's Digest of UK Energy Statistics shows that in 2008 3.23 million tonnes (oil equivalent) of biomass were used to generate electricity and 0.74 million tonnes (oil equivalent) of biomass were used to generate heat. Assuming an average energy value of 18 gigajoules per tonne of biomass, this gives a total of 7.5 million tonnes of biomass for electricity generation and 1.7 million tonnes of biomass for heat generation.

Full records are not currently available for the country of origin of biomass used in the UK. Robust biomass supply chains are only now becoming established across the UK and biomass fuels are increasingly traded as a global commodity. The share of imports will depend on numerous factors, including progress with developing indigenous supply chains for waste wood, virgin material and energy crops. Heat-only installations are more likely to use UK sourced feedstocks.

The European Commission's recently published recommendations for sustainability criteria for solid biomass include a recommendation to monitor the origin of feedstocks. DECC will make an announcement later this month, setting out what actions the Government can now take to introduce sustainability standards for biomass used for heat and electricity in the UK. We already require sustainability reporting under the renewables obligation. This requirement was introduced in April 2009 and the first reporting cycle is due later this year. The sustainability report will include data on the type and origin of biomass used for electricity generation.