Burning large amounts of wood from forests can cut greenhouse gas pollution — but only alongside policies that encourage new trees to quickly absorb carbon dioxide.

That is the conclusion of new research published in Science Advances, which seeks to counter the prevailing view that biomass can worsen climate change.

Energy companies in the U.S. and Europe — including Drax Group PLC, once the U.K.'s biggest coal power plant — are turning to biomass fuels harvested from forests or farms as a way to wean themselves off coal. While wood is the largest biomass source, it can also come from other organic matter such as crop waste or even garbage. That material is then burned to run steam turbines that produce electricity (and heat as a by-product) that can be piped to homes. It can also be turned into biofuels for transportation.