Millions in ‘green’ subsidies will go into it. But capturing CO2 at the chimney of biomass power stations and storing it is not sustainable, argues Fenna Swart, chairman of the Clean Air Committee.

Trouw, Wednesday 28- 2- 2024 Link: Omgebouwde kolencentrale levert niet opeens groene energie, integendeel (
Fenna Swart, chair of Comité Schone Lucht
Maarten Visschers, environmentalist and boardmember of Leefmilieu

Despite climate minister Rob Jetten’s promise to stop new biomass projects, the Netherlands continues on this disastrous path. There are concrete plans to greenwash two coal-fired power stations with a new method. Owner RWE, the largest energy producer in the Netherlands and Europe, wants to convert the Amer and Eemshaven power stations, which need to get rid of coal, to full biomass power stations. Now, in addition to coal, 3.5 million tons of wood (also far from sustainable) is co-fired every year. But if the requested permits are issued, RWE will be allowed to burn 7.5 million tons of wood per year. The image of this so-called green energy is boosted with carbon capture and storage: ‘good for the environment’. The so-called ‘bioenergy with CO2 capture and storage’ is considered a climate measure. It is touted as a clean air technique. England is investing heavily in it and Europe has included it in its climate policy. But in reality the climate is worse off.

Conflicts with climate goals
Research by the World Wildlife Fund confirms what nature conservationists such as the Clean Air Committee have been saying for years: the biggest offender of European climate policy is the Brussels biomass policy. Number 1. It came to fruition under then European Commissioner Frans Timmermans and was included again in the EU’s sustainable energy directive last year. The European science associations and the UN confirm that biomass is contrary to climate objectives: production (logging and transport) and emissions (wood burning) hinder a rapid reduction of CO2 emissions. According to scientists, bioenergy with CO2 capture and storage actually causes more CO2 emissions on balance.

Although CO2 is captured at the chimney and then stored, it is not stated that this capture and storage costs a third of the energy generated. In addition, CO2 emissions from forest clearing, the production of wood pellets and the transport of wood are not included. And let’s not forget that newly planted trees only contribute by capturing CO2 after fifty to a hundred years. If the new planting takes place at all.
So the forests can brace themselves. The wood pellets for these power stations now mainly come from clear-cut forests in the Baltic states and the southeast of the US. To run the RWE power stations, the wood yield must increase to more than 7.5 million tons annually by 2030. This means that 75,000 hectares of forest will be burned every year. This amounts to burning all Dutch forests in five years.

Although this technology is already being used extensively in England through billions of government subsidies, there is still no evidence of a successful project. Nevertheless, Timmermans, as European climate commissioner, decided last year to give 80 million euros in innovation subsidy to energy company Exergi in Stockholm.
An additional problem is that the costs of operating a biomass plant with carbon capture are astronomical. Think tank Ember calculated that the two installations with capture and storage of the British energy company Drax need 36.7 billion euros in subsidies over a period of 25 years, excluding the construction of transport pipelines and offshore CO2 storage.

Not useful and disastrous
Using biomass combustion with carbon capture and storage as a climate measure is not useful and disastrous for forests and biodiversity. The technology is unproven and very expensive. While a natural solution is obvious: Leave forests, protect them and expand them. Brussels and the Netherlands must prohibit a non-scientifically based approach by law. Stop these experiments, which promise sustainability, but in reality maintain a polluting industry