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Biomass-based Generation

Volume 548: debated on Thursday 12 July 2012

11. What steps he is taking to encourage biomass-based generation in appropriate and sustainable locations. (116509)

Alongside our bio-energy strategy, we have introduced the renewable heat incentive and are currently reviewing support levels for biomass electricity. We are introducing sustainability controls into financial incentives. We have reformed the planning system in England to promote sustainable development and to encourage local authorities to plan for renewables development in the right places.

But does the Minister agree that there is enormous potential for biomass in this country, particularly because it is capable of being produced at the right size, volume and quantity in a location—and there is less resistance to that sort of biomass? The real problem comes when the biomass raw material is imported from South America and Africa and not grown in our own country.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight the benefits of biomass. In our estimate, in the areas of heat and electricity, biomass could account for 40% of the renewable energy that we need to achieve by 2020. We have to strike the right balance, as there are other uses for wood fuel in this country: it can be used in furniture and in panelling, which are important industries for this country. We believe it right to look at imported fuels as well, as long as they are sustainably produced.

Drax power station takes fast-growing crops, grown especially in Thirsk, Malton and Filey, and provides a great source of income to farmers in very difficult times. Will the Government and the Minister do all they can to promote biomass in preference to wind farms as a renewable and sustainable source of energy?

We do not have to be either/or; we need a balanced energy portfolio. I think biomass offers a very significant immediate carbon gain when we move from coal-fired generation to biomass generation. Some exciting developments are happening in that sector, but having wind in the right locations is an important part of the mix, too.