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. Relative savings in GHG emissions increase with higher power plant capacity. GHG emissions related to wood pellet production and transatlantic shipment of wood pellets typically contribute about 48% and 31% of total GHG emissions, respectively. Overall, use of imported wood pellets for electricity generation could help in reducing the United Kingdom's GHG emissions. We suggest that future research be directed to evaluation of the impacts of additional forest management practices, changing climate, and soil carbon on the overall savings in GHG emissions related to transatlantic wood pellet trade.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number024007
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • European markets
  • electricity generation
  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • lifecycle assessment
  • southern United States
  • wood pellets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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