Fontainebleau Hotel Miami Beach, which hosts an annual biomass conference. Credit: Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com
One of parliament’s strongest champions of biomass, Nigel Adams MP, has received tens of thousands of pounds in political donations and hospitality from the controversial industry, Energydesk can reveal.
The Conservative MP accepted £62,411 in donations to fund his political work between 2012 and 2016, including £30,376 to attend a series of conferences at luxury hotels in Miami Beach and New Orleans.
Adams has consistently called for increased public subsidies for the industry and in 2012 lobbied then Prime Minister David Cameron to divert onshore wind farm subsidies to fund biomass power stations.
The MP also chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on biomass, which Drax – one of the UK’s leading biomass players – helped to set up and fund.
The news comes after a recent report by think tank Chatham House claimed that most forms of biomass energy – which the industry argues is a solution to climate change – actually produce more carbon than coal.
When contacted by Energydesk, Adams described concerns over the donations as an attempt to “smear the biomass industry and those associated with it”.
“It should not come as a surprise to anyone that I am a champion for electricity generation via biomass given that two of the largest employers in my constituency, Drax and Eggborough, who between them directly employ well over 1100 local people, are involved in electricity generation using sustainably sourced biomass.”
“Additionally, as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Biomass, it is not unusual for domestic and international companies looking to invest in my constituency or the wider UK energy sector to want to engage with me at meetings or conferences on broader energy issues. It is also not unusual for these companies to fund the cost of travel and accommodation for MP’s including myself to take part in these conferences or meetings”, he continued.
Large scale biomass involves burning wood pellets in power stations to generate electricity – often old coal plants that have been converted to use wood instead.
According to the new report: “while some instances of biomass energy use may result in lower lifecycle emissions than fossil fuels, in most circumstances, comparing technologies of similar ages, the use of woody biomass for energy will release higher levels of emissions than coal and considerably higher levels than gas.”
Operators of biomass power stations, such as Drax, have managed to secure billions of pounds in subsidies by presenting it as a low carbon form of energy.
The new report raises the prospect that public subsidies intended to help tackle climate change could have been wasted on supporting a technology that actually makes it worse.
However, both the biomass industry and a biomass subgroup of the International Energy Agency have said that the Chatham House report is flawed and that sustainable biomass can help tackle climate change.