To highlight what it sees as the risks being posed to the wood panel industry by biomass energy, the Wood Panel Industries Federation (WPIF) has released findings from two independent reports it commissioned which suggests that the development of large-scale wood fired energy plants in the UK not only risks 8,700 UK jobs but could increase UK CO2 emissions by six million tonnes – or one per cent of the UK’s total net CO2 emissions each year.

The WPIF said at fault is the Renewable Obligation (RO), a government subsidy that encourages biomass energy plants to burn the same wood as is used in wood panels.

One independent report conducted by Europe Economics, on behalf of the WPIF, concluded that the entire wood panel manufacturing industry – 8,700 full time equivalent jobs – was at risk if demand from large-scale wood-fired power generators for UK-sourced wood is encouraged to develop unchecked.

It said employment effects could extend to the 12,000 or so people estimated by the Forestry Commission to work in sawmilling and related activities should the sawmilling sector experience structural change as a result of the subsidy.

Further research from CarbonRiver found that subsidising the purchase of wood for incineration encouraged the most carbon-intensive use of that resource.

It found that should the biomass industry displace the wood panel industry – as trends suggest it might – there would be an increase in net CO2 emissions equivalent to 1.5 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of wood processed.