Last week saw the REA and UKPC host the 2020 Wood Heat Online conference, to discuss the future of the Biomass Heat sector. As the Government formalises its proposals on future support for low-carbon heat, the conference illustrated the strength of the sector, both in its ability to decarbonise heat, and the economic footprint it has created throughout the supply chain.
Coordinated by the REA, Wood Heat Forum and UKPC, presenters included civil servants and experts from across the industry. The four-day virtual event covered the latest heat policy developments; looked at how the UK could increase domestic biomass supply; discussed industry standards and finished with a look at what is next for the biomass heat industry.
Whilst the first and last sessions focused on the current policy landscape, the remaining sessions looked at the work the sector does to ensure high standards, as well as how biomass and forest management help to achieve environmental and economic outcomes.
The sector has moved a long way since the beginning of the RHI, and one key question has been how consistent and secure supply of biomass feedstocks can be ensured. Similarly, the question of standards and how to best manage bioenergy to maximise the net environmental benefit has been prominent.
Both of these sessions showed the efforts being made across the sector, whether it be ensuring quality through the Biomass Suppliers List (BSL) or Sustainable Fuel Register (SFR) or coming up with innovative new feedstocks, such as Coffee Logs from Bio-bean. These developments and benefits have had significant impacts, that are not currently recognised within Government heat policy.
“… Government must assess the extent of the current industry and consider what is the basis we need to be building on”
A major takeaway from the final session was widespread agreement that biomass heat must have a united voice and continue to bang the drum for an industry that provides the largest proportion of UK renewable heat today. What came across clearly, was the call for the Government to look at where the heat sector is right now.
As Mark Sommerfeld, Policy Manager for the REA put it, biomass plays a clear and vital role, and Government must “assess the extent of the current industry and consider what is the basis that we need to be building on”, it must look at “what is delivering decarbonisation today”. Biomass heat technologies will need to be rolled out in much larger quantities if the UK is to meet its climate ambitions. If this is not recognised, it would be a step backwards, not forwards.
The Conference also welcomed recent news of Government’s commitment to producing a new, updated biomass strategy, something REA has long campaigned for, having published an industry-led Bioenergy Strategy last year. However, the conference made clear that Government must now act fast to bring about a step change in renewable heat policy if the biomass heat sector is to continue to play its crucial role in helping decarbonise heat across the UK.
More on biomass heat:
Read Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA) Chief Executive Dr Nina Skorupska’s ‘Heat Policy… Mind The Gap’ blog here