By: Rubina Obaid
Studies warned for the worst climate impact due to the burning of trees for producing electricity. This may also cause destruction for the climate in the same way as coals and other fossil fuels do. As it is considered that wood is less energy dense fuel and biomass burning plant may emit more carbon dioxide from their smokestacks than coal to generate the same amount of electricity.
Burning forests for the production of renewable energy is massively expanding for obvious reasons. Burning wood is really cheap and an efficient way of obtaining energy as one kilogram of wood holds around ten times more energy than a kilogram of Li-ion battery which definitely costs you more. If you do the calculation precisely, you would need 11.7 fully charged Tesla 85kWh batteries to produce 1 MWh of electricity which costs you around $176000. Whereas, on the other hand, it requires only half a tonne of wood pellets to drive a generator at a cost of just $100. Over the years, the crucial role of biological system has been recognized in obtaining energy. However, a recently published report “Precision satellite mapping study” has revealed the statistics which showed that the amount of wood logged from the European forests between the year 2016 till 2018 increased by 69% as compared to the amount logged between 2011 and 2015. Also, according to another analysis by Tim Searchinger and some other reports that predicted impending harm to the global forests.
These studies warned for the worst climate impact due to the burning of trees for producing electricity. This may also cause destruction for the climate in the same way as coal and other fossil fuels do. As it is considered that wood is less energy-dense fuel and biomass burning plant may emit more carbon dioxide from their smokestacks than coal to generate the same amount of electricity. Moreover, cutting older trees and replacing them with sapling reduces carbon sequestration capability of a forest as it takes time for the forests to grow again and be geared up for the process of carbon sink. We nurture our trees and love to have them in our parks and gardens but using forests as the source of renewable energy is going to leave various far-reaching consequences.
UK is found to be the biggest culprit in Europe, which is importing compressed, dried, and pelleted forest wood even as far from North America. Burning wood forests is also destroying wildlife and their natural habitats while leaving a negative impact on our climate. Wood pellets are used to serve the purpose by drying them and further processing them in modern power plants. These wood pellets can burn hotter and more suitable than normal woods. As the process of drying and compressing make them easier and cheaper to ship across the globe. According to the latest study conducted in 2018, it reported that almost 40 million tonnes of this modern wood fuel was burned to produce electricity. This yields about 100 terawatt-hours of electricity which is around one-sixth of the global total of electricity from wood. Forest burning advocates have long argued that they use wood residues and waste for burning and obtaining energy.
But numerous organizations have set biomass energy production targets or predictions significantly in excess of today’s level. This may correspond to a much simpler equation of more tree felling means rise in using wood biomass. Therefore, the so-called green is backed by the energy sector, and wrapping it with fancy words like “renewable” and “sustainable” will not help countries to move towards an environment that is free from carbon footprints. We cannot have a sustainable renewable shift at the cost of our forests because it requires millions of tonnes of wood which means our forests will be kept on stake for achieving the target and intervening the ecosystem eventually may cause further climate chaos.