Biomass Subsidies Waste Billions in Billpayer Money

The UK is now the top subsidiser of bioenergy in Europe. In 2019, the UK spent more than £1.9 billion on bioenergy subsidies, primarily to burn wood imported from overseas forests at Drax Power Station. One in every five pounds the UK spent on renewables subsidies in 2018 went to bioenergy, rather than to wind, solar and other true clean energy. On average, every man, woman and child in Britain paid £30 to support the UK bioenergy industry.


Biomass subsidies are paid out of a surcharge on household electricity bills, increasing overall electricity costs for British families. Climate think tank Ember estimated that subsidies to large biomass power plants specifically cost the UK energy billpayer more than £1 billion in 2020 — or almost £3 million a day. Until most subsidies end in 2027, Ember calculates that energy billpayers will spend £13 billion in direct support to large biomass power plants (including £10 billion at Drax alone). And in addition to the direct subsidy, biomass generators are receiving carbon tax breaks of £333 million a year.


Subsidies to biomass electricity are all the more shocking considering wind and solar power guarantees real emissions reductions and is readily available at a fraction of the cost. Studies have shown for years that biomass plants are both uneconomic compared to these true renewable alternatives and unnecessary for ensuring the reliability of the UK electricity supply.

In 2019, the UK overtook Germany to become the top subsidiser of bioenergy, according to data compiled by research firm Trinomics. UK biomass subsidies totalled £1.9 billion across all bioenergy end use sectors, an increase of nearly 60% since 2015.
Biomass Subsidies Undermine Climate Action and a Green Recovery


Prime Minister Johnson says he wants to lead the world in tackling the climate emergency and protecting nature, but his government’s billions in subsidies for dirty biomass electricity directly undermines these plans. We deserve a coherent, whole-of-government approach to these serious threats, not years more of wasteful biomass subsidies.


Consider the following:


●  As part of his Green Recovery agenda, PM Johnson says he is committed to ambitious investments in true clean energy such as wind power. But just one year’s worth of biomass subsidies could buy enough offshore wind to power all the homes in Manchester twice over.


●  The Government has pledged to invest in native tree-planting in Britain via a £640m “nature for climate fund.” Yet, the funds allocated for tree-planting represent less than 10% of what the UK will give in subsidies to large biomass power plants to cut and burn trees over the same period, assuming biomass subsidies continue unchanged.


As we rebuild our economy after the COVID-19 pandemic we must consider where money is being spent and ensure government investment goes towards clean and climate-friendly growth. With household budgets under pressure, there is no justification for continuing to waste millions a day subsidising fake solutions to climate change.


Explore these links to discover more about the cost of UK biomass subsidies.

Burnout 2020: The UK Is Now the Top Subsidiser of Bioenergy in Europe

Money to Burn II: Solar and Wind Can Reliably Supply the United Kingdom’s New Electricity Needs More Cost-Effectively Than Biomass

Drax Received More Than £800m In Biomass Subsidies Last Year—With No Obvious Climate Benefit

Reality Check: Biomass Is Unnecessary for The Reliability of UK Electricity Supply—and So Are Continued Subsidies to Drax Power

The Burning Question: Should the UK End Tax Breaks on Burning Wood for Power?

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About Us

Cut Carbon Not Forests is a campaign to remove subsidies from companies that burn trees for electricity, co-ordinated by a coalition of UK and US-based NGOs. Join us in asking the Government to redirect biomass subsidies to real clean and renewable energy.

To contact the CCNF coalition: [email protected]


For media inquiries please contact: [email protected]

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