Yes to Biomass – says Footprint Trust

The Island’s Footprint Trust has welcomed plans for more biomass energy plants on the Isle of Wight, and the UK as a whole. The educational charity said it felt it had to give a view following inaccurate and misleading comments against biomass use.

“The problem is that some biomass schemes have been linked to using land that was used for food production in developing countries and is now used for biomass crops. It does not follow that all biomass schemes are doing this….”

Said Ray Harrington-Vail of The Footprint Trust, which backs all forms of renewable energy and promotes energy conservation.

The schemes proposed on the Isle of Wight seek to use wood from sustainably managed forestry from the Isle of Wight, the UK and the EU or Scandinavian countries. Certification schemes exist such as the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) and woodlands are governed by legislation. Responsible forest management is at the heart of FSC because well-managed forests provide a wide range of social and economic benefits and environmental services, such as livelihoods for people and habitats for animals and plants. Leading conservation and environmental organisations, along with forestry owners and government bodies, support this scheme. It is a prime example of co-operation, which has to happen if we are going to protect and manage the World’s limited resources. Greenpeace say of the FSC scheme, “…FSC logo is the best guarantee that wood and paper products come from well-managed sources….”

“Today’s environmentalists are mainly realists and pragmatists with a basis in science. There are some, however, that would have us all living in Medieval villages using only handtools, wearing sackcloth and eating a Vegan diet. Most of us welcome the improvements to our lifestyles and would not want to give those comforts up, but feel that we must use what resources that we have more wisely.”

One of the great successes in this country has been the National Grid – which guarantees, households, businesses, railways and hospitals power. To keep this going and reliable we need a ‘baseload supply’ of electricity from power stations that can be relied upon whatever the weather. The Footprint Trust welcomes wind and solar schemes, which all make a contribution into the fuel mix. The UK needs a number of fuels as this improves fuel security. In the past we were heavily dependent on coal, today this fuel still generates about 30% of our electricity, and large percentage is now imported. Diversity of fuel production makes sense. In the case of biomass some of that fuel can come from the UK or from a number of sources outside of the UK. ‘Baseload’ electricity at the moment comes from gas-fired, coal and nuclear power stations. The Footprint Trust would like to see biomass and tidal turbines added into the mix. Tidal turbines may be available in the next 10 years of so. Biomass is available now – and whilst it is not completely carbon neutral – nothing is – it should not be rejected. Those concerned about air pollution should not be concerned about modern heavily regulated and low-emission wood-fired power stations – but rather the real air pollution from our cars.

Biomass should ideally be moved by ship, as this is the most energy efficient mode of transport. In the case of timber residues from forestry used for biomass it can be dried, using biomass as a fuel, which reduces its weight. It is interesting to note that less energy would be used to move biomass fuel from Scandinavia to the Isle of Wight by ship, than from Scotland by lorry. An example of this being a leading supermarket, that is now shipping its wine in barges from the Liverpool to Manchester rather than using lorries. They have dramatically reduced their carbon footprint.

“The Footprint Trust welcomes the opportunity posed by the biomass proposals for the Isle of Wight. Biomass will increase local production of heat and power, create jobs and reduce carbon emissions…which is why we featured biomass and woodland management in our documentary about the Island – The Thin Green Line… ”


For full Footprint Trust report on biomass – with references please see

Click to access biomass.pdf