Benefits and potential impacts of biomass

Here are examples of benefits and impacts to the community from using biomass. There is also information on the environmental benefits and impacts.

Community benefits

  • Biomass can be taken from many sources in the UK indefinitely and, where well managed, contribute to security of energy supply.
  • If used in an anaerobic digestion plant, it is eligible for Feed-in Tariffs (FITs).
  • UK sourced biomass and processing can create local business, job opportunities and support the rural economy.
  • By using biomass for energy generation, it doesn't go to landfill and therefore avoids the landfill tax.
  • In comparison with other renewable energy technologies, woodlands, forestry and agriculture are generally perceived to be an environmentally and socially attractive amenity. They provide opportunities for recreation and leisure activities.

Impacts on the community of using biomass

  • Growth of energy crops could potentially compete for land with food cropping as demand for biomass increases.
  • Biomass users may be locked in long-term supply contracts with a single supplier making it difficult to get competitive pricing in the future.
  • Other impacts are similar to those covered in the District Heating and Combined Heat and Power pages.

Environmental benefits

  • Establishing local production networks and usage lowers the financial and environmental transport costs. There is no region in the UK that cannot be a producer of biomass, although some have greater potential for productivity than others.
  • Many biomass fuels generate low levels of such atmospheric pollutants as sulphur dioxide and CO2. Modern biomass combustion systems are highly sophisticated, offering combustion efficiency and emission levels comparable with the best fossil fuel boilers.
  • Use of biomass (including agricultural and domestic waste arisings) for energy, diverts these materials from landfill.

Impacts on the environment of using biomass

  • There is the potential for biomass to be taken from unsustainable, non-certified, forest sources.
  • There are some negative impacts of forest management and farming of biomass crops on ecosystems and habitats. Therefore, an environmental impact assessment for forestry and cropping is required. Furthermore the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) has developed guidance for siting biomass crops to reduce impacts on birds.
  • Transporting biomass has noise and emissions implications.
  • There are air quality implications depending on the type of biomass used.
  • There are high levels of water use for biomass cropping which can be problematic in areas where access to water is limited.


4 January 2016

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