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Selaine Saxby: The sustainability of burning trees for energy generation in the UK

Selaine Saxby MP (North Devon)

Today I held a Westminster Hall debate on bioenergy to discuss how we use our timber resources most sustainably. The UK government initially decided to subsidise the conversion of coal fired power stations into biomass to help with the phase-out of coal. The subsidies were committed at a time when biomass was cheaper than renewables such as wind and solar, and had perceived additional benefits such as providing consistent, reliable power.

Much time has passed since this initial decision was made and, in this time, the body of scientific evidence has developed significantly and increasingly against burning biomass for electricity generation. In fact, just this week, a group of 600 scientists joined together in a letter to the Prime Minister warning him against further use of this controversial energy source.

However, in this time, there have been very few opportunities for Members of Parliament to discuss the topic and to express potential concerns. In fact, the last debate on this topic for backbench MPs to discuss was held a decade ago.

At a time of global energy disruption and price rises across the board, we must ensure that what we are choosing to invest taxpayer money in is right for all of our needs. This means ensuring our energy supply choices are good value for money, strengthen our energy security and truly aligned with our ambitious nature and net zero targets.

The government’s biomass strategy, which is due later this year, represents a critical juncture in our energy policy making. I thought it imperative that MPs were given an opportunity to discuss this topic and raise their concerns with the minister.

Bioenergy has implications for your energy bills, our net zero ambitions, the protection of global biodiversity and food security. It was with this need for a holistic discussion in mind that I led a Westminster Hall debate this morning on the “Sustainability of burning trees for energy generation in the UK”.


Views expressed in this blog are those of the author, not necessarily those of the Conservative Environment Network. If you are a CEN supporter, councillor, or parliamentarian and would like to write for the CEN blog, please email your idea to


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