Native forest logging for fuel is not clean energy

Energy retailers and consumers must beware of electricity produced from the logging of Australia’s native forests after the Australian Parliament approved inclusion of native forest biomass into the nation’s Renewable Energy Target (RET).

Now that native forest logging can feed forest furnaces to produce electricity into the grid under the Renewable Energy Target, consumers and electricity retailers will need to beware that this is not clean energy, not carbon neutral, and not environmentally friendly.

Burning native forests for electricity will not help the climate, but it will enable continued unsustainable logging via taxpayer subsidies unlocked by its controversial inclusion into the Renewable Energy Target. The assumption that it is climate neutral is simply wrong.

The Renewable Energy Target is meant to be promoting forms of electricity that do not emit greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, not propping up destruction of priceless forest ecosystems whilst releasing large amounts of carbon.

This is a lifeline for the continued unsustainable logging destruction of Australia’s native forests in the wake of collapse of woodchip exports from those native forests and could reach volumes on a similar scale to those for export woodchips, which were also categorized as a waste product.

In Tasmania the government has made it clear that they want this biomass burning as what they cutely call a ‘residue solution’, to take the significant volumes of pulp logs coming out of the forest that used to go as woodchip exports and burn them supported by public subsidies. Otherwise they can’t make logging those forests pay.

A similar situation in East Gippsland, Victoria, was outlined in recently released documents that said it would not be economic to log for sawlog alone, no markets exist for the woodchip, and that burning native forest biomass was the only prospect to continue industrial logging in the area.

A Working Paper outlining that burning forest biomass for electricity is not carbon neutral was recently released by Chatham House, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, in the margins of UN Climate negotiations.

Sadly the knock on effect may be to constrain expansion of genuine clean energy sources in a lower RET.

This was clearly the intent of the Senate trade-off that created a Wind Commissioner in return for including native forest biomass burning.

Peg Putt, CEO Markets for Change

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