The dispute follows a call by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in its bioenergy review that major power plants burning wood and other energy crops should not benefit from the Renewables Obligation system designed to subsidise green power. The advice said that encouraging this form of generation would raise costs and have limited sustainability benefits.
Harry Huyton, head of energy and climate change policy at the RSPB, said his campaign group's figures show that the 32 large biomass plants currently being developed in the UK would import 81 per cent of their fuel from overseas. "Not only is this environmental madness, the CCC has shown that it does not make economic sense either," he said.
Friends of the Earth biofuels campaigner Kenneth Richter said that industrial-scale power stations burning imported wood pose a threat to the world's forests.
But Jonathan Scurlock, chief renewable energy adviser to the National Farmers Union, said that if the government follows the CCC's advice in its forthcoming bioenergy strategy, "this could have the perverse consequence of halting investment in a sector that has struggled with half-hearted government support and needs a diverse portfolio of projects".
The review is available via Planning Resource.co.uk/go/referencesection