Greenhouse gas benefits of wood pellet trade

Power utility companies in the United Kingdom are using imported wood pellets from the southern region of the United States for electricity generation to meet the legally binding mandate of sourcing 15% of the nation’s total energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020. 

This study ascertains relative savings in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for a unit of electricity generated using imported wood pellet in the United Kingdom under 930 different scenarios: three woody feedstocks (logging residues, pulpwood, and logging residues and pulpwood combined), two forest management choices (intensive and non-intensive), 31 plantation rotation ages (year 10 to year 40 in steps of 1 year), and five power plant capacities (20–100 MW in steps of 20 MW). 

Relative savings in GHG emissions with respect to a unit of electricity derived from fossil fuels in the United Kingdom range between 50% and 68% depending upon the capacity of power plant and rotation age. 

Overall, use of imported wood pellets for electricity generation could help in reducing the United Kingdom’s GHG emissions. 

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