On February 27, 120 firemen were rushed to deal with a major incident at Tilbury, east of London, where 6,000 tons of wood pellets had caught fire at what is now ''the world's largest biomass power station''. Until recently Tilbury was one of England's 14 remaining coal-fired power plants. But, attracted by the 100 per cent-plus subsidies we pay to help meet the EU target whereby within eight years, 32 per cent of our electricity must come from ''renewables'', the plant's German owners, RWE, have converted it to burning more than half a million tons of pellets a year, imported from Georgia, US, where the wood is grown and processed.
One problem is that large quantities of green wood are liable to combust, the most likely cause of this fire (the second such in Britain in recent months). Another is that wood generates energy so much less efficiently than coal that the plant's output has fallen from 1,100 megawatts to only 750MW. (However, this is still two-thirds of the power generated on average by all our 3,500 wind turbines combined.)
Rather more serious, though, since the claimed purpose of ''biomass'' is to help reduce Britain's emissions of carbon dioxide, is that the wood actually emits more CO2 for each unit of electricity it produces than the coal it replaced (not to mention all the additional CO2 emitted by processing and shipping it across the Atlantic). This recently led that bizarre body, the Committee on Climate Change, set up to advise the Government under the Climate Change Act, to recommend that biomass power stations should only be permitted to operate if they are fitted with ''carbon capture and storage'', designed to pipe away and bury all the CO2 they emit.
So, in order to reduce our CO2 emissions, we subsidise power companies to burn wood which ends up emitting much more CO2 than the fossil fuels it replaces, so that the Government is now told that this should only be allowed if the firms then remove that CO2 by a process so CO2 intensive that it doubles the cost of the electricity, in order to bury it under the sea using technology not yet commercially developed and which, according to various scientific studies, will never work anyway. Yet according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, ''biomass'' is going to be as important to meeting our EU targets as those useless windmills. Thus in every direction do the ''green dreams'' of those who rule us in London and Brussels collide with reality.
Copyright 2012 Telegraph Media Group Limited
All Rights Reserved