Business energy supplier Squeaky calls out biomass as ‘dirty’, says consumers being misled

Biomass: Can it be classified as clean energy?

Business energy supplier Squeaky has called out biomass as ‘dirty’ power and says consumers are being misled in thinking that all renewable energy is ‘clean’.

It wants Ofgem to mandate clear labelling in the form of a traffic light system so that people know whether the renewable energy they are buying is non-polluting.

The firm commissioned market researcher Populus to survey 2,000 UK energy customers. It found 43% believed ‘renewable energy’ to mean energy from sources which are non-polluting, sustainable or carbon neutral.

But Squeaky points out that renewable sources include biomass, which it described as ‘dirty’ because burning wood or waste releases both solid carbon particulates and greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2).

While firms like Drax, which burns wood pellets from North America to produce much of the UK’s renewable energy, state categorically that their fuel sources and supply chain are sustainable, there is evidence to suggest that burning biomass may actually make climate change worse.

Based on a recently published lifecycle analysis of US forests, MIT professor John D Sterman argues the latter.

In the May edition of Energy World, he writes:

“Government policies should not violate basic laws of physics. Declaring that wood biofuels are carbon neutral, as the EU, UK and others have done, assumes regrowth is rapid and certain. Neither is true. This accounting fiction promotes costly policies that accelerate climate change. Through renewable energy subsidies, the UK and Europe are paying power plants to make climate change worse.”

Meanwhile, a government commissioned report published last year by Beis was inconclusive on the sustainability of biomass. It said more research was needed.

Squeaky’s survey found only a third of respondents knew that renewable energy includes biomass, versus 85% that believed renewable to be sourced from solar and wind power.

The company said only 23% of respondents agreed that biomass could be suitably interpreted as ‘green’ energy when offered an explanation of biomass-derived power.

Squeaky said energy companies use confusing language around ‘greener’, ‘smarter’ and ‘low carbon’ tariffs and called for Ofgem to mandate a standard labelling system for energy products, much like nutritional information on food labelling.

Bowden: Says business model is “squeaky clean”.

Founder Chris Bowden said customers are being “hoodwinked into buying energy which they think is non-polluting … and are then being charged a premium for what they believe is environmentally friendly energy which can more more polluting than coal”.

He wants Ofgem to implement three definitions:

Clean energy, which is non-polluting and includes: renewable energy from wind, solar, geothermal, wave, tidal and hydropower.

Renewable energy: which includes the above plus biomass, landfill gas, sewage treatment plant gas and biogases, and can be imported from overseas.

Standard energy: Energy derived from all forms of generation.

Bowden co-founded Utilyx before selling to Mitie in 2012. He founded Squeaky Clean Energy to give mid-sized firms the power to strike deals direct with renewables generators in the same way large corporates do. In a nutshell, “we cut out the middle man and buy direct”, he recently told The Energyst.

He claimed Squeaky’s peer-to-peer platform, which connects buyers with sellers, enables firms to buy clean power for the same price, or less, than brown power.

See a full interview with Bowden here.

Related stories:

Going for brokers: Three platforms bidding to disrupt energy procurement

Beis publishes long awaited biomass report

Click here to see if you qualify for a free subscription to the print magazine, or to renew.

Follow us at @EnergystMedia. For regular bulletins, sign up for the free newsletter.


  1. So releasing carbon that is in the surface carbon cycle rather than carbon that has been out of the carbon cycle for millennia is detrimental to the CO2 balance!! Fosil fules are utilized in the transport of bio-fuels so I agree they can often be misrepresented as squeeky green alternative energy sources but implying that it is a step backwards is a bit strong. Even hydroelectric power was initially created with fosil fules diring its constriction so when you burrow down the rabbit hole all of these so called super clean energy sources utilise fossil fuels for their construction and maintenance. My good man the Warren runs deep it just depends on how misrepresentative you want to be. All of these repackaged energy sources aren’t as green as they claim. They are steps in the right direction and I’m not expecting us to become hunter gathers and give up modern life and live off the land. We must relearn that ancient skill of walking with little feet upon this scared mother earth the only place we have to live so let’s look after her as we can’t replace the blue marbel caressed in a sum beam. Use less is the most sustainable way but the corporations don’t concur.

  2. Why do we as a species have such difficulty with the concept of “Finite”? All manufacturing in this economy requires dense, cheap, unending fossil fuel energy and unending Credit (Debt) based on the aforementioned “Cheap” endless fossil fuel energy. In the last century the “Net Energy” (Energy available for us after subtracting the energy used to get said energy) Has gone from over 800 to one (Energy return on energy invested) down to 13 to one. The current economy (Western developed lifestyle) needs a net energy of about 11.2 to one. So NET ENERGY IS EVERYTHING! Productivity is a term used to define the output of labour (plus technology) plus Capital. However this is only 14% of Productivity? The remaining financial externality of the aggregate energy efficiency built in to every step along the productivity supply chain is the other 86% (Not in any economics textbook!). Without abundant Net Energy, out lives will become forcibly simplified, perhaps not back to hunter gatherers but flying should be interesting without fossil fuel? 9Not to mention it takes 8 barrels of oil to make the tyres! No reverse Gear!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here