In Europe, burning biomass to generate electricity depends on state subsidies; without these, inefficient power plants are in trouble. It is a positive step therefore that Belgium’s Flemish region is ending its affair with biomass subsidies, and this should set an example for the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED II).
The most recent news concerns Langerlo, a Belgian power plant that was supposed to be converted from burning coal to burning biomass (organic matter). The company has announced it will file for bankruptcy, a move which will save the Flemish government EUR 2.2 billion in subsidies. The Langerlo plant was one of the last remaining electricity-only installations in the area: plans to convert BEE Power (another plant in Ghent) to biomass were cancelled earlier after its subsidies were withdrawn.
There is a growing body of evidence about the negative environmental impacts of bioenergy (see Up in Flames), which journalists report have ushered in a change in public opinion and reduced the government’s willingness to subsidise biomass plants with public money.
If RED II is amended to exclude subsidies for biomass use, the EU will have a chance to stop squandering public money as well as to safeguard the climate, forests and people.
Photo: Genk - E-ON Langerlo Power plant
Credit: Jan Geurts - https://www.flickr.com/photos/jantograaf