IEMA comments on Channel 4 documentary on wood incineration for energy broadcast last night

Following the broadcast of a Channel 4 investigation into “the true cost” of renewable energy generation, experts at a global sustainability body say it’s critical that consumers are confident that renewable energy really is “clean and green”.

Dispatches: The True Cost of Energy was screened on Channel 4 at 8pm on Monday 16th April. The documentary’s description states:

Reporter Antony Barnett investigates a subsidised renewable energy industry that turns trees into fuel, and asks whether burning wood instead of coal is really an environmentally friendly answer to climate change. He travels to the forestlands of the south-eastern United States to find one source of this controversial ‘carbon-neutral’ fuel, and the biodiverse wetlands of Virginia and North Carolina, where millions of tonnes of wood are harvested and processed into pellets, which are burnt in one of Britain’s largest power stations.”

Martin Baxter, Chief Policy Advisor at global sustainability body IEMA said this morning that the broadcast is important in highlighting the need for renewable energy to be truly sustainable: “Meeting the energy needs of a constantly growing population in a clean and sustainable way is indisputably a complex challenge, and there’s certainly no silver bullet. It is vital that high environmental standards are used in tackling the challenge of climate change and making the transition to a low-carbon future,” said Baxter.

The UK is formally committed to reducing GHG and carbon emissions through the 2008 Climate Change Act and the 2015 Paris Accord. In meeting this challenge, reducing our total energy use is imperative and renewable energy schemes (however good) will always have some level of environmental impact. Key principles, important when claiming ‘carbon neutrality’ for renewable energy schemes are additionality, avoiding risks of double counting and ensuring sustainability of any associated resource management says Martin Baxter: “Government, Environment and Sustainably professionals and the media all have a role to play in explaining these complexities, helping the public to make informed decisions about their energy choices.

IEMA members with energy management responsibilities can learn more about reducing emissions through energy and using the IEMA Greenhouse Gas Management Hierarchy - a policy guide to aid focus and priorities when making energy decisions