The Environmental Paper Network’s Working Group on Forests, Climate and Biomass has today launched new tools to track and monitor the expanding biomass energy and pellet industries. The two maps published make publicly available for the first time an extensive global database of existing and planned energy plants running on woody biomass, and of mills manufacturing wood pellets destined to be burned for energy.

These maps aim to bring together the plants and mills that pose the biggest risk of negative environmental and social impacts. Therefore only energy plants with the production capacity of 20 MW or more, or mills with annual production of 50,000 metric tonnes or more of pellets, have been included in the database. These kinds of installations can be a major threat to forest ecosystems if the wood fuel comes at volume directly from forests. The bigger the plant or mill, the more unlikely it becomes that woody biomass can be sourced and ecologically sustainably.

The maps do not include energy plants that are primarily run on black liquor (a by-product in pulp mills), bagasse (the residue of sugar cane) or post-consumer waste wood, focusing on the ones most likely to rely on raw material directly from the forests and likely to cause additional logging pressure in the world’s forests.

As highlighted in the EPN’s previously published report entitled, A Global Threat Map of Biomass Energy Developments, these new maps clearly visualise the worrying new growth of the bioenergy industry in East Asia, especially in Japan and South Korea. Despite the consistent and wide ranging warnings from the scientific community on how especially the conversion of old, inefficient coal power plants to burn wood pellets doesn’t help us in solving the climate crisis or reducing emissions, the Japanese government and industries are pushing ahead. Similarly, worrying new developments are seen in Western Africa where biomass energy is prone to advance the expansion of monoculture tree plantations.

To supply the growing demand of biomass for burning, the pellet sourcing industry continues expanding in Australia and North America, particularly in the boreal regions of Canada.

The data on these maps has been collected from openly available sources by EPN member groups worldwide. This is a constant work in progress and the maps are updated regularly as new information becomes available. If you you’d like to share any further updates or intelligence with us, do not hesitate to contact us.