October 24, 2020

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“Biomass stop endangering climate targets” | Right away

"Biomass stop endangering climate targets" | Right away

The Social Economic Council (SER), a key advisory body of the Cabinet, believes that the Netherlands should stop using woody biomass to generate electricity and heat. A number of experts have serious doubts about this advice and believe that this makes it difficult to achieve the climate targets.

The use of woody biomass to generate electricity and heat for building heating has been criticised for some time. According to opponents, it leads to too much CO2 and nitrogen. According to SER, the cabinets would do well to quit.

There are alternatives that, according to the advisory board, can be used in the foreseeable future, with the idea of renewable energy sources such as geothermal energy, aquathermia (heat from water), wind energy and solar energy.

Cbs estimates that 3 percent of the energy spent on heat currently comes from wood-based biomass. In performance, that’s about 2 percent.

It has already been decided that in a few years’ time it will no longer be used to foment biomass for electricity generation. Now the use of biomass for heat must also be quickly reduced to zero, according to the SER, which supports this in the Chamber of Deputies.

Scientists are very critical

But there are serious doubts as to whether sufficient energy can be gained from these alternatives in the short term. A group of scientists, including several professors, wrote a letter the Advisory Panel in which they expressed their objections.

“We are concerned about the impact of your advice on more sustainable energy supplies and tackling the climate problem.” For example, they find that SER consultants are far too optimistic about other energy sources.

“In our opinion, the alternatives are not in the heat, or they cost too much money. It will take at least 10 to 20 years for some of these alternatives to be used on a larger scale technically and economically.” Moreover, they say, there is uncertainty about how sustainable geothermal and aquathermia really are.

Solar and wind energy also have limits

There are also drawbacks in generating electricity from sun and wind, according to the group. “The possibilities and speed at which solar and wind energy can be expanded are limited.” They also point out that the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow, while biomass is always available.

The scientists add that the requirements for the use of biomass are aimed at reusing the CO2 released from its combustion, which fits perfectly into a circular economy. “We fear that your advice will unnecessarily make it difficult and delayed to approach the climate issue in our country,” they conclude.

Martien Visser is a lecturer in energy transition at Hanze University Groningen and also wonders whether additional solar modules and windmills can provide enough energy to captivate biomass in the short term.

“By 2030, we are facing a major challenge in terms of sun and wind, while the grids are already unable or barely able to cope with them. In addition, in ten years’ time, renewable energy will reach us in north-west Europe, so to speak, as soon as it blows and the sun shines.”

In order to achieve the CO2 target by 2030, he sees more in the additional capture and storage of CO2 underground. A target has already been set in the current climate agreement, but for him it could be relatively easy to go a little further up.

Disagreements over the use of woody biomass create uncertainty in the economy. For example, the energy supplier Vattenfall doubts the plans to build a biomass power plant in Diemen. The company wants clarity on the policy before a final decision on the construction is made, Said Director Martijn Hagens recently took a stake against The Parole Board.