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Author Topic: Dispatches: The True Cost of Green Energy  (Read 1733 times)
splyn
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« on: April 17, 2018, 01:23:05 AM »

An investigation into the consequences of harvesting wood to burn at Drax

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches


Spoiler: they aren't totally convinced that it's ecologically sound...
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bxman
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« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2018, 07:59:56 PM »

Nor am I
I think every Member of Parliament should be forced to watch this report .
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dan_b
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« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2018, 08:31:10 PM »

Bonkers.
Might as well burn coal at least itís under our feet.

(What I mean is the sooner we stop burning stuff for any form of energy generation the better)
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« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2018, 08:36:04 PM »

When wood burning for energy generation was first proposed, I always had a picture in my mind of a smallish power station sitting in the middle of a couple of square miles of fast growing timber which would serve the power station. Reasonably renewable, I could buy into that.
But the idea of denuding American forests to ship halfway across the world to burn in the UK just does not add up to me.
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« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2018, 09:43:53 PM »

Bonkers.
Might as well burn coal at least itís under our feet.

(What I mean is the sooner we stop burning stuff for any form of energy generation the better)

We'll be burning gas for a while yet.
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« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2018, 09:08:17 AM »

Yes - and to my mind it's probably better to burn the gas and make no pretence about it being renewable rather than burning American trees and pretending it's a green source of energy?
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« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2018, 09:22:33 AM »

When wood burning for energy generation was first proposed, I always had a picture in my mind of a smallish power station sitting in the middle of a couple of square miles of fast growing timber which would serve the power station. Reasonably renewable, I could buy into that.
But the idea of denuding American forests to ship halfway across the world to burn in the UK just does not add up to me.

Yep, the scale has got out of control. They should never have allowed mass generators to import, if it can't be harvested locally it shouldn't be considered.

   https://www.carbonbrief.org/biomass-subsidies-not-fit-for-purpose-chatham-house

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« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2018, 10:12:30 AM »

When wood burning for energy generation was first proposed, I always had a picture in my mind of a smallish power station sitting in the middle of a couple of square miles of fast growing timber which would serve the power station. Reasonably renewable, I could buy into that.
But the idea of denuding American forests to ship halfway across the world to burn in the UK just does not add up to me.

Yep, the scale has got out of control. They should never have allowed mass generators to import, if it can't be harvested locally it shouldn't be considered.

Although that sounds like a good rule of thumb, when we run the numbers it turns out not to be that useful. A better rule of thumb would be restricting how far the wood is taken by road, cos that can be much more polluting than moving it by sea, even though the distances are shorter. But then we're still not accounting for forest replacement rates, so we need to account for that too. Then we need to account for how much of the fuel is a secondary source, and how much is a primary source. And what happens to the land after cropping. And how the biomass is actually used for energy, and where, and what the best substitute would have been. And we need to look at what's happening elsewhere too: how much extra biomass has been planted because they anticipate the market will continue to grow, and what else could have been done with that land. And what's happening with the biodiversity at all these sites.

And here's where it gets ugly. There are so many factors that affect the balance of whether biomass is a good thing or not, that any one study can't cover them all. And it also means that it's possible to do a study that looks like it's comprehensive, but where the choices about which factors to include and which to exclude have been made so that the study gives the answer that the author wanted from the beginning. That's not good science, but it is very common.

Now, all this means that the conclusion is rather dissatisfying. It means that some biomass is definitely good, and some is definitely bad. It means that government intervention is absolutely necessary to get the criteria for good biomass established, regulated and enforced.  It means that market forces are going to be very helpful in minimising costs when operating within those criteria.

This is a pain for anyone seeking a simple answer. But the reality is that it's genuinely complicated, and there's no getting away from it: all the simple answers are wrong.
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oliver90owner
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« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2018, 10:36:08 AM »

It is the government that got it wrong in the first place.  This fuel is only imported to burn because of the subsidy rules - payments from the government (our tax-payer contributionsí, to be more precise).  As long as they receive incentives, they will continue.  It is all about profit.
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« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2018, 10:48:25 AM »

It is the government that got it wrong in the first place.  This fuel is only imported to burn because of the subsidy rules - payments from the government (our tax-payer contributionsí, to be more precise).  As long as they receive incentives, they will continue.  It is all about profit.

Yes, and that's good: the profit ensures that we've got companies innovating to minimise costs. And the EU have been quite good at researching the things that make the difference between good biomass and bad, and updating the regulations accordingly. As long as we continue that process of actively learning and improving, we'll do just fine.
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Westie
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« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2018, 11:49:08 AM »

When wood burning for energy generation was first proposed, I always had a picture in my mind of a smallish power station sitting in the middle of a couple of square miles of fast growing timber which would serve the power station. Reasonably renewable, I could buy into that.
But the idea of denuding American forests to ship halfway across the world to burn in the UK just does not add up to me.

Yep, the scale has got out of control. They should never have allowed mass generators to import, if it can't be harvested locally it shouldn't be considered.

Although that sounds like a good rule of thumb, when we run the numbers it turns out not to be that useful. A better rule of thumb would be restricting how far the wood is taken by road, cos that can be much more polluting than moving it by sea, even though the distances are shorter. But then we're still not accounting for forest replacement rates, so we need to account for that too. Then we need to account for how much of the fuel is a secondary source, and how much is a primary source. And what happens to the land after cropping. And how the biomass is actually used for energy, and where, and what the best substitute would have been. And we need to look at what's happening elsewhere too: how much extra biomass has been planted because they anticipate the market will continue to grow, and what else could have been done with that land. And what's happening with the biodiversity at all these sites.

And here's where it gets ugly. There are so many factors that affect the balance of whether biomass is a good thing or not, that any one study can't cover them all. And it also means that it's possible to do a study that looks like it's comprehensive, but where the choices about which factors to include and which to exclude have been made so that the study gives the answer that the author wanted from the beginning. That's not good science, but it is very common.

Now, all this means that the conclusion is rather dissatisfying. It means that some biomass is definitely good, and some is definitely bad. It means that government intervention is absolutely necessary to get the criteria for good biomass established, regulated and enforced.  It means that market forces are going to be very helpful in minimising costs when operating within those criteria.

This is a pain for anyone seeking a simple answer. But the reality is that it's genuinely complicated, and there's no getting away from it: all the simple answers are wrong.

Yes, it is complex which is why we need our academics!

Another downside of importing seems to be that the country from which the product is imported may have a different set of regulations from our own so, as we see in the Despatches report,  nobody seems interested in policing the regulations that should govern harvesting.
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Artiglio
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« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2018, 02:43:51 PM »

The goverment are most likely well aware of the arguments , they just donít care, itís all a bout notional carbon reduction targets to be met under the climate change act. The millions of tonnes burnt at Drax will be deemed as having a tonnage of reduced co2 , all helping towards the goal.
Under the rhi scheme initially you could burn logs in a qualifying boiler without any real trouble, then the Biomass suppliers list was introduced and to burn logs you needed to register as a fuel supplier, as part of this you needed to show where the logs came from , wether the plantation / forest was managed and how far they were transported. All fed into the site and you got approval or not. Basically for those not harvesting from their own land it meant logs as fuel was no viable.
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heatherhopper
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« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2018, 01:15:58 PM »

Quote
Under the rhi scheme initially you could burn logs in a qualifying boiler without any real trouble, then the Biomass suppliers list was introduced and to burn logs you needed to register as a fuel supplier, as part of this you needed to show where the logs came from , wether the plantation / forest was managed and how far they were transported. All fed into the site and you got approval or not. Basically for those not harvesting from their own land it meant logs as fuel was no viable.

Not quite my understanding of the way it works. How did you come to the final sentence conclusion?

All government incentives are shot full of holes if you look closely enough - sadly scheme beneficiaries and commercial interests are quick to latch onto the lucrative ones (and have often been instrumental in creating them to start with) while previously uninterested Joe Public is whipped into a temporary frenzy of indignation. Some would say it has always been thus with our system of lobbying and consultation.
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« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2018, 02:12:56 PM »

Hi
Does seem strange. In Plymouth all the local wood chip (which comes from waste wood, old furnature etc etc which seems quite green) , is shipped out to Sweden for them to burn. We then import all ours from the States. There must be some logic somewhere but I can't see it

Iain
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Artiglio
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« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2018, 05:56:33 PM »

Heatherhopper

I got involved in the RHI  in 2015, for my mums place in wales. Original idea was to have a log boiler and batch burn, we already buy in 15 tonne loads of forestry thinnings, cut/split/stack/dry  at home for the log burners, so not a major issue time/space wise. Initially this was going to be no problem then came the biomass suppliers list for rhi fuels. Registering was no problem and became a registered ď prcessor consumerĒ or something similar, ie produce fuel for own use.
Problem arose when asking our log supplier to certificate where the logs came from, land ownership etc, no outright refusal but general reluctance on their part. So went for a pellet boiler instead. In hindsight the better option in terms of convenience.
Rules may well have changed since I registered, donít get any updates as I cancelled the registration before the first fuel return was due.
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