Minister reveals health costs of biomass emissions

The health impacts of particulate matter PM2.5 emissions from biomass combustion are expected to cost the UK £215 million in 2020, according to environment minister Richard Benyon.

However, Mr Benyon, said this was a “small fraction” of the total health impact estimated from the exposure of the UK population to PM2.5.

Defra's Richard Benyon MP revealed that the health impacts from PM2.5 emissions are expected to cost the UK £215 million in 2020

Defra’s Richard Benyon MP revealed that the health impacts from PM2.5 emissions are expected to cost the UK £215 million in 2020

The figures were revealed in Mr Benyon’s response to a written question in parliament on Monday (February 4).

Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton, Graham Stringer, asked Mr Benyon about whether he would be undertaking an assessment of the potential social effects of the 11.36 kilotonnes of PM2.5 estimated to be emitted through biomass combustion in 2020.

Biomass fuels include wood, straw and poultry litter, but exclude liquid and gaseous biologically derived fuels (transport fuels, sewage gas and landfill gas) and municipal solid waste which has a biological component.

In response to the question, Mr Benyon said: “We have not, as yet, carried out a full analysis of the potential social effects of fine particle emissions estimated to arise from the combustion of biomass in 2020. However, the health impacts in 2020 of the associated fine particle emissions (PM2.5) has been estimated in monetary terms at £215 million in 2010 prices, using our published air quality damage costs.”

He added: “This is a small fraction (1.4%) of the total health impact estimated from the exposure of the UK population to fine particles in 2008, the most recent year for which an estimate of the total impact of fine particulate pollution is available. This assessment does not take into consideration the monetisation of the benefits of reduced greenhouse gas emissions arising from this use of renewable fuels.”

Biomass emissions estimates

Mr Stringer’s question to the government was made in reference to another question on biomass emissions addressed in parliament by Mr Benyon last month (January 23).

Mr Benyon was asked by Alun Cairns, Conservative MP for Vale of Glamorgan, what the expected air quality impacts of biomass combustion in the UK was for the next five and 10 years.

In response, Mr Benyon revealed the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (NAEI)-estimated levels of air pollutants as a result of biomass combustion in the UK for 2015 and 2020.

Mr Benyon said that emissions of PM2.5 from biomass were estimated by NAEI to reach 9.42 kilotonnes in 2015 and 11.36 by 2020. It was also estimated that PM10 emissions from biomass would rise from 14.10 kilotonnes in 2015 to 16.53 kilotonnes by 2020.

Nitrogen oxide emissions from biomass combustion, meanwhile, were also predicted by NAEI to increase from 8.70 kilotonnes in 2015 to 20.86 kilotonnes in 2020.

Mr Benyon’s parliamentary response on February 4 can be viewed in full on the UK parliament website.

  • Michael Ryan

    There’s been very little interest in the UK from the massive savings resulting from the reduction of industrial PM2.5 emissions since Eric Pianin’s article in the Washington Post of 27 September 2003.

    Don’t take my word for it when HM Treasury will admit the truth:

    The fiscal prudence of reducing industrial PM2.5 pollution
    (HM Treasury, 6 September 2012)

  • Graham Cliff

    I chemically speciated air pollutant particles in Manchester air to smaller than PM2.5 over 30 years ago. This was was full of siliceoeu dusts capable of causing silicosis and its attendant secondary inflammation ill health issues. Regulators ignore everything smaller than the legal size limit to which air pollution particles are regulated – they are totally complacent!

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  • I find it interesting that Graham Stringer MP is asking about the health impacts of biomass incineration. Because the Co-op Group and Manchester City Council plan to built a biomass incinerator in or close to Graham stringer’s constituency, of course describing it as green and sustainable. As he is asking this very relevant question, I hope that means he will oppose the Co-op’s plans.