Biomass subsidies are secretly funding coal

Read Sandbag’s report Something Nasty in the Woodshed here

  • Coal power is being funded by biomass subsidies, particularly in Poland, Finland and the Netherlands

  • 23% of EU solid biomass in 2015 was co-fired in coal power plants

  • Biomass-to-coal conversions risk giving a lifeline to old coal generators


6th September, London – Biomass subsidies could actually be slowing decarbonisation in Europe,  regardless of sustainability questions around biomass sourcing, shows a report released today by Sandbag.


Coal plants are staying economic by burning subsidised biomass in coal plants and benefiting from misplaced renewables support.


To reach the “below 2 degrees” goal agreed at Paris, the IEA’s modelling shows that unabated coal in Europe must fall to zero by 2030. Any biomass cross-subsidy must be stopped if Europe is to rapidly phase out coal and play its part in avoiding dangerous climate change.


On the 12th October, the European Parliament’s Environment Committee (ENVI) will vote on amendment to the Renewable Energy Directive that would ban subsidies for co-firing biomass and coal.


Charles Moore, Analyst at Sandbag commented:

“Next week, Parliament can vote to block further subsidies for co-firing coal and biomass. If Europe is serious about cutting carbon emissions, and reducing air pollution, it needs to tackle its coal problem, and this is a great place to start.

The report also shows that by converting some old units on a site to burn biomass, other coal units on the same sites are being kept open.  The revised Renewable Energy Directive must address this risk.”


Also newly released is a report looking at the sustainability of biomass. Bioenergy laid bare: Fuelling climate change, fuelling hunger (by WWF, Birdlife, Oxfam, Transport & Environment, Fern, and Zero Waste Europe) shows that many of the types of bioenergy incentivised within the EU either offer no carbon benefits over the fossil alternative or are actually counterproductive in climate terms.




Notes to editors


Sandbag is a London and Brussels-based not-for-profit think tank conducting research and campaigning for cost-effective climate policies.  For more information, visit our website at

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