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13 April 2010

Biomass boom threatens UK wood chip shortage

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Forestry trade group says UK suppliers will struggle to keep pace with growing demand for material from new fleet of biomass plants

The rising demand for fuel from large scale biomass energy plants could leave the UK reliant on imports of wood chips and pellets for the first time, according to a new report from the Confederation of Forest Industries (Confor) released late last week.

The study, titled Wood Fibre Availability and Demand in Britain 2007-2025, predicts that plans to build a new wave of biomass power plants means that demand for wood chips and pellets is likely to exceed domestic supply by 2012.

The amount of imported wood could then rapidly rise to around 27 million tonnes per year if all the biomass plants currently in the pipeline are built.

The report predicted that the British biomass sector is set to expand so rapidly that by 2025 demand could almost equal the present size of the global wood fibre biomass trade.

It added that even if a only small proportion of the new energy plants become operational, demand for a variety of different kinds of timbers grown in Britain, including short rotation coppice and sawmill by products such as wood chips, will rise significantly.

Confer argued that the government's climate change policies and associated incentives such as Renewable Energy Certificates have prompted the increased demand for wood fibre for generating energy.

It forecast that significant pressure will be put on global supply chains and as a result prices are expected to rise in the short term, potentially impacting the existing and potential new users of wood fibre and the future wood processing and wood energy industries in Britain.

It also predicted that the Renewable Heat Incentive, which is planned to be launched in 2011, could put further pressure on the potential availability of wood fibre in Britain.


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