Campaigners dispute new boiler’s green credentials

11th May 2012

A Derby supermarket will be installing a new biomass boiler to help it cut its carbon emissions, but local environmental campaigners claim that it will not be truly green.

<The new boiler at Sainsbury’s Kingsway branch will be fuelled using pelleted waste wood which the supermarket chain says will make it ‘carbon neutral’. The store wants the boiler to help with central heating and providing hot water, it is one of 30 such boilers across the UK that Sainsbury’s have already installed in its various branches.

Peter Robinson of Derby Campaign Against Climate Change complimented the chain on its efforts to cut carbon but said that pelleted wood could actually be dirtier than coal.

“It emits greenhouse gases that are just as much of a problem as those from coal and oil” Mr Robinson said. “It’s being marketed as renewable because the wood can be grown again but that isn’t the whole story. The impact of this upon agriculture and food in developing countries is devastating, but the Government appears to believe that biomass is one of the ways forward.”

The group is concerned that if plans for expansion of wood-burning plants across the UK are approved, the country could be burning six times more wood than it can produce domestically. However, the Carbon Trust on their website stress that one of the main advantages of wood-burning biomass boilers is that the carbon dioxide emitted is the same as amount as that which the tree absorbed while it was growing and therefore that wood-burners are sustainable as long as the fuel is sourced locally.

Friends of the Earth opposes biomass imports stating that the amount of biomass available should be restricted to that which can be grown unsustainably in the UK. It particularly opposes imports of wood fuel as well as the use of agricultural land for production of energy crops. According to a May 2011 report by the environmental group, total wood production in the UK is around 8.4 million dry tonnes per year but that plans to expand biomass power stations would mean a requirement of around 50 tonnes per year by 2015. This will in turn mean importation of wood from abroad and thus more industrial-sized plantations, deforestation, logging, and land-grabbing, making climate change worse rather than helping to alleviate it.

A Sainsbury’s  spokesman said that the boiler would emit about 69 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year and that all the wood used as fuel would be sourced within the UK. “As well as incorporating the latest combustion technology to ensure energy-efficiency, the boilers we use are odourless, smokeless and comply with rigorous environmental and air quality standards” the spokesman added.