Australia Rejects Forest Biomass


By Paul Homewood

h/t Ian Magness

From Mongabay:

  • On December 15, Australia became the first major economy worldwide to reverse itself on its renewable classification for woody biomass burned to make energy. Under the nation’s new policy, wood harvested from native forests and burned to produce energy cannot be classified as a renewable energy source.
  • That decision comes as the U.S., Canada, Eastern Europe, Vietnam and other forest nations continue gearing up to harvest their woodlands to make massive amounts of wood pellets, in order to supply biomass-fired power plants in the UK, EU, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere.
  • In the EU, forest advocates continue with last-ditch lobbying efforts to have woody biomass stripped of its renewable energy designation, and end the ongoing practice of providing large subsidies to the biomass industry for wood pellets.
  • Science has found that biomass burning releases more carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy produced than coal. Australia’s decision, and the EU’s continued commitment to biomass, creates a conundrum for policymakers: How can major economies have different definitions of renewable energy when it comes to biomass?

Forest advocates in Australia — the world’s 13th largest economy — say they scored a major environmental victory on December 15 when the ruling Labor Party revised a key regulation, rejecting the renewable energy classification of wood harvested from native forests and burned to make energy. Previously, under the country’s renewable energy policy, woody biomass had been classified as a renewable energy source.

The impact of this regulatory change is perhaps most significant for the setback it may pose to the biomass industry globally, hindering the multibillion-dollar wood pellet industry from getting started Down Under at a time when pellet production is rising in the U.S. Southeast and British Columbia in order to supply growing demand to the EU, UK and Asia.

“The changes [in Australia] mean that native forest biomass is no longer considered an ‘eligible renewable energy source’ for the purposes of [the nation’s] Renewable Energy Target, and electricity it generates cannot be used to create tradable Large-scale Generation Certificates [for replacing coal],” Chris Bowen, Australia’s minister of climate change and energy, said in a statement. “We have listened to the community and acted to address their concerns.”

Australia, by its decision, is taking a very different course than the European Union, where woody biomass — despite growing public opposition — remains defined as a renewable energy source, is heavily government subsidized as a result, and makes up 60% of the EU’s renewable energy mix. Australia is among the few G20 countries without a thriving biomass industry; at present it neither produces nor burns wood pellets at any scale.

But that situation was poised to change, according to Virginia Young, a forest advocate with Wilderness Australia, an NGO.

“Two big power stations in Queensland were on the verge of converting from coal to biomass,” Young told Mongabay in an interview from Montreal, where she was attending the United Nations COP15 biodiversity conference. “There are [coal] plants in Victoria and New South Wales that were looking to convert. They were talking with Drax [the world’s largest consumer of wood pellets for energy based in the United Kingdom] about how to make it happen. All this was about to start.”

But without the renewable designation, biomass development in Australia is all but dead in the water.

Part of the policy change appears to be driven by the new government of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, which is intent on quickly hitting its 43% carbon emissions reduction target by 2030, meeting its Paris Agreement pledge. Young said that when forest advocates recognized the short timetable available for accomplishing that commitment, they “flew into action” to lobby intensely for the renewable energy policy change.

Scientists note that it requires many decades for woody biomass to qualify as a renewable energy source and truly help a nation achieve its net zero carbon emissions goals; that’s because it takes a decades for the carbon released into the atmosphere from burned trees to be reabsorbed by newly planted, slow-growing replacement trees.

An Enviva wood pellet manufacturing facility in Sampson County, North Carolina, U.S., where thousands of whole trees are stacked in a ring, destined to become wood pellets and be shipped abroad. In 2021, the EU imported 3.7 million tons of pellets mostly from the U.S. Image courtesy of the Dogwood Alliance.

“This is a big win for the community, who want the electricity sector decarbonized as quickly as possible and do not want to see native forests logged to enable coal-fired generators to switch to burning forests instead of coal,” Bob Debus, chairman of Wilderness Australia, an NGO, said in a statement.

Australia’s reluctance to embrace woody biomass has led it to invest more heavily in zero-carbon renewable energy.

In 2021, 29% of Australia’s total energy mix came from renewables such as solar, wind and hydro; just 1% came from burning biogas and nonwoody biomass. By comparison, the 27-country EU got 22% of its total energy mix from what it calls renewables in 2020. But when wood pellets are removed from that calculation, the EU’s zero-carbon renewables are closer to 9% of total energy.

5 6 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
December 23, 2022 6:18 pm

Quite frankly the Australian Labor Party, who is now in Government, have always been Green sympathisers to win their votes. This was always going to be a given.
In saying that, it just seems like madness to supplement perfectly good coal fired power stations, which also have an abundance of resource, with flattening forests for the same outcome.

December 23, 2022 6:20 pm

Biomass appears to be a Biomess.

Reply to  antigtiff
December 23, 2022 6:34 pm

A real pain in the biom-ass.

Frank from NoVA
December 23, 2022 6:36 pm

Good news. Now if the enviros would just back off their fixation on CO2, they’d be approaching rationality.

Peta of Newark
December 23, 2022 6:47 pm

That circle picture is a vision of Hell and is not made up of ‘forestry waste’

(and something else they lied about, Hell really does exist and is a cold place, wrap up warm)

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  Peta of Newark
December 23, 2022 6:50 pm

Looks like Isengard in LOTR.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
December 23, 2022 8:40 pm

In the Divine Comedy, Dante depicts the lowest level of Hell, inhabited by Lucifer and those who betrayed the trust of friends, as an endless land of ice.

December 23, 2022 7:09 pm

To me the policy ‘reversal’ is about native forests only but would probably still allow plantation forest biomass ?

John Pickens
December 23, 2022 7:15 pm

I love the image at the top depicting all the diesel trucks delivering the trees to the facility. What is that pile, 500 truckloads? If the average round trip distance is 100 miles, at 8 miles per gallon, that pile represents 100/8 X 500 = 6250 gallons of diesel. And I bet that is less than half the total diesel used to cut, load, and then transport the pellets by ship to the EU. Plus the energy used to process the wood into pellets. What a waste of time and effort.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  John Pickens
December 26, 2022 8:21 am

Equally valid is to sum up all the fossil fuel energy used in mining, smelting, forming of metals into sheet materials, manufacturing, assembly, erection on site, maintenance, demolition when its less-than-promised operating (I won’t exaggerate by saying “useful”) life is over.

Plus all the fossil fuel energy used in transport through each step.

Plus l the fossil fuel energy used to create all the construction equipment and transport vehicles used for all the mining and transport, and the fossil fuels that run them all.


And THERE NEVER WILL BE, unless we resort to turning the Earth into a desert devoid of woody plants and anything else we can burn. And that wouldn’t last long.

Tom Halla
December 23, 2022 7:19 pm

Part of the problem is that Australia has a similar Mediterranean climate to California, where much of the natural wildlands are open woodlands, kept so by regular fires. Either harvesting brushy trees for fuel, or controlling them with regular fires, seems beyond the “Bambi” fixation of greens.

Reply to  Tom Halla
December 23, 2022 9:00 pm

Tom, Australia has vast areas of tropical, sub-tropical, temperate, desert, high plains and marine climate zones.

They each have their own characteristics.

But yes, the South Eastern, South, and South Western areas of the continent could be described as “Mediterranean” like.

Reply to  Tom Halla
December 24, 2022 7:23 am

There simply seems to be no energy or cost efficient method to “harvesting brushy trees for fuel”!

John Aqua
December 23, 2022 7:21 pm

This is bloody insane. I visited Enviva’s website and they purport that they burn forest products to save Forests and the climate. Have we gone mad?

Steve Case
Reply to  John Aqua
December 23, 2022 8:44 pm

Have we gone mad?

Yes, the book was written over 100 years ago: Wikipedia

Steve Case
Reply to  Steve Case
December 24, 2022 4:02 am
Reply to  John Aqua
December 24, 2022 12:31 am

With all these bizarre happenings in the world, not just the climate alarmism, my wife and I remind each other that the world is an asylum and it is being run by the inmates. Then everything makes sense.

Clarky of Oz
December 23, 2022 10:16 pm

So while they accept that CO2 from burning logged forests will be used by trees to fuel forest growth, they fail to understand that trees will use the CO2 from coal to fuel forest growth. All this without cutting down the trees inthe first place. Buirn coal and save our forests.

December 23, 2022 10:43 pm

reluctance to embrace woody biomass has led it to invest more heavily in zero-carbon renewable energy.

…meaning that no matter how bad burning forestry products, for baseline demand electrical power, is thought to be, Australia has abandoned a working energy production scheme to pursue multiple non-working energy production schemes.

Wind and solar, and grid based electrical storage are not zero-carbon. All require huge investments in carbon-intense industries for manufacture and operations throughout their short productive lifecycles.Essentially Oz has committed to energy poverty and social upheaval.

Last edited 1 month ago by dk_
AGW is Not Science
Reply to  dk_
December 26, 2022 10:18 am

I’d say short UNproductive life cycles.

Unpredictable, unreliable, inconsistent electric generation is worse-than-useless.

December 23, 2022 11:07 pm

It was always contrived to class wood pellets as “renewable” energy sources. There is not much difference between burning coal or burning wood. Coal has merely sat around for a lengthy time.
It continues to worry Australians who know a bit about resource use, like the former widespread use of Australian trees for timber for big uses like building homes. At the same time as prohibitions on wood pellets for burning, there are also increasing prohibitions on using trees for construction timbers. We import a lot. Where is the sense in that?
Geoff S

Matt Kiro
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
December 24, 2022 3:55 am

Using lumber in long term construction like housing is storing carbon, especially if you plant new trees where you harvested the old ones. So people should be all for that.
I didn’t see that they are prohibiting wood pellets, just that they don’t qualify as ‘renewable’. Of course no power provider would use them without the renewable subsidies they get from the government.

December 24, 2022 3:20 am

we should be hitemp burning our rubbish as a priority

Tom Abbott
December 24, 2022 4:20 am

From the article: “Science has found that biomass burning releases more carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy produced than coal.”

So how do Western politicians justify doing this? The smarter path would be to build more coal-fired powerplants. Unfortunately, our Western politicians have proven not to be very smart, to the detriment of all of us.

Our idiot politicians are leading us down the road to destruction, all based on an unreasonable, unwarranted fear of CO2.

Last edited 1 month ago by Tom Abbott
December 24, 2022 7:18 am

About effing time!
I understand that M. Moore is a controversial character, but the 2nd half of his “planet of the humans” was spot on showing (cinematically not scientifically) what it means to destroy biomass for energy production.. this helpless political measure was what destroys the planet!
(according to him financed by oil money with the blessing of climate religion)

And it is simply not a good idea to burn green wood! This does not change if you do it on a life threatening large scale and ship the pallets around the planet first.

December 24, 2022 8:41 am

Good for the Aussies, I’ll be writing to HMG after Christmas to ask why they are continuing to burn at least 7,000,000 tonnes of wood pellets at Drax when they could burn coal instead.

Reply to  Jackdaw
December 24, 2022 12:09 pm

Ask why no thorium liquid salts cooled reactors for producing cheap reliable safe electricity. I am bound for Aussie Land and it can become a much better place w/o the stupid pols who are holding progress back.

Reply to  antigtiff
December 24, 2022 3:08 pm
Michael S. Kelly
December 24, 2022 8:16 pm

One of the “environmentalist” mantras of the 1970s was the anti-nuclear power slogan: “Split wood, not atoms.”

Having successfully killed nuclear power, they are now going after wood. Their eventual goal is human extinction.

December 24, 2022 11:11 pm

Perhaps the “native forest biomass” clause is an out, Join the rest of the major idiots who import wood pellet from somewhere else.

AGW is Not Science
December 25, 2022 8:53 pm


Please stop feeding the stupid Eco-Nazi bullshit.

December 27, 2022 11:20 am

Coal is a bio-fuel– compressed peat.

%d bloggers like this:
Verified by MonsterInsights