- The Government’s new Biomass Strategy underlines the vital role of bioenergy in delivering energy security and Net Zero;
- Chief Scientific Advisor for DESNZ, Professor Paul Monks, highlights that “Biomass can play a significant role in decarbonising nearly all sectors of the economy.”;
- New policy certainty on biomass will drive investment in the UK, supporting green jobs and innovation in crucial technologies such as BECCS;
- The Government’s evidence-driven approach that places sustainability as its “top-priority” will build confidence in the continued use of biomass across the economy;
- Government must now urgently act upon this Strategy, delivering policies that ensure bioenergy is able to play its role in delivering Net Zero.
The REA (Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology) has welcomed the publication of the Government’s new Biomass Strategy, which reaffirms the important role of biomass across the economy for energy security and Net Zero.
The Strategy sets out a clear vision for the use of sustainable biomass across the economy. The REA is pleased to see that it takes forward many of the recommendations made in 2019 in the REA’s industry-led Bioenergy Strategy. At a time when all eyes are on America’s Inflation Reduction Act, new policy certainty on bioenergy will help to drive investment in the UK.
The Biomass Strategy provides confidence to well-established low-carbon industries across power, heat and transport, helping to safeguard the retention of skills, supply chains, and job opportunities. The Strategy can now inform wider Government decarbonisation policy to enable sustainable sector growth, for example recognising where biomass boilers, biofuels and biogas can play larger roles in sustainable heat, transport and industrial decarbonisation. The Strategy also highlights the role biomass will play in addressing hard-to-treat sectors such as sustainable aviation fuels and hydrogen production.
The UK has led the world in developing regulations that ensure that biomass is always sustainable, whether imported or from the UK. The Strategy continues this leadership, recognising that feedstocks come from a complex range of sources, including forestry, agriculture residues, energy crops, waste wood and other residual waste streams. The industry looks forward to working with the Government as they further consult on the development of a cross-sectoral common sustainability framework, ensuring that the rigorous, science-based sustainability governance arrangements remain up-to-date.
The Strategy emphasises the importance of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), a unique technology which can simultaneously provide renewable energy and negative emissions. By capturing CO2 and permanently storing it, BECCS creates a ‘carbon conveyor belt’, tapping into the natural carbon cycle in order to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere permanently. The Strategy is accompanied by the publication of a report led by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero Chief Scientific Advisor’s Task and Finish Group, which “did not identify any insurmountable scientific barriers to the net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere and subsequent permanent geological storage via BECCS”.
The REA welcomes the Strategy’s recognition of the role of BECCS, but highlights that there is an urgent need to go further. It is critical that Ministers provide workable routes to market for BECCS applications, enabling carbon removal at scale. The Government must act now to make it possible to deliver BECCS at all scales, or we will be left without a crucial tool for tackling climate change.
Finally, it is welcome to see that biomass availability from both UK and international sources are also carefully modelled within the Strategy. This modelling further establishes that biomass demand for reaching Carbon Budget 6 is “estimated to be within the range of overall biomass availability” and that, where used sustainably, can also lead to realising Net Zero by 2050. In line with the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) recommendations, the REA also calls for increased support for planting and use of domestic biomass feedstocks, including perennial energy crops such as miscanthus and willow, as well as short-rotation forestry. The increasing need for sustainable biomass presents a golden opportunity for UK landowners and farmers.
Dr Nina Skorupska CBE, Chief Executive of the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA), said:
“The Biomass Strategy is highly welcome and shows the Government’s commitment to the vital role of sustainable biomass in delivering energy security and Net Zero.
“Bioenergy is the UK’s largest source of renewable energy across power, heat and transport and the Biomass Strategy provides important confidence to these established low-carbon industries, maintaining skills, supply chains and jobs.
“In a context of increasing international competition for the green industries of the future, the Biomass Strategy provides certainty which will help drive investment in strategically important innovations including bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS), sustainable aviation fuels and bio-hydrogen production pathways.
“The UK is a world-leader in sustainable bioenergy, but urgent policy action is needed to realise opportunities across the sector. The REA welcomes and will fully engage in the upcoming consultation on a cross sector sustainability framework, ensuring sustainability governance arrangements remain world leading. Government must build on the Biomass Strategy to bring forward workable business models at all scales for critical Net Zero technologies such as BECCS; increase the ambition for bio-based heat and transport decarbonisation; as well as further supporting the scale up of innovative biomass feedstocks such as perennial energy crops.
“Biomass is one of our most versatile tools for tackling climate change, and we look forward to engaging further with Government as policy continues to develop for these crucial technologies.”
Darren Williams, Chair of Biomass UK (The REA’s Biomass Power Forum) and CEO of Eco2, said:
“The Biomass Strategy is a strong vote of confidence in the continuing importance of sustainable biomass to our energy security and climate ambitions. Sustainable biomass has been a vital pillar of the UK’s power sector decarbonisation to date, displacing fossil fuels with reliable, dispatchable, renewable electricity. It is welcome that the Strategy recognises the role of biomass power at a range of scales and utilising a range of feedstocks, both produced in the UK and imported.
“Looking forward, the UK’s well-established biomass power sector will provide the foundation to deliver vital negative emissions through BECCS. Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage is uniquely valuable in being able to simultaneously provide renewable power and remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Government must now urgently build on the Biomass Strategy to deploy workable business models for BECCS at all scales, capitalising on the existing skills, supply chains and investment across the industry.”
William Mezzullo, Chair of the REA’s Green Gas and Hydrogen Members Forum, and Head of Hydrogen at Centrica, said:
“The Biomass Strategy demonstrates the importance of continuing to grow the anaerobic digestion and biomethane sectors, which will contribute to the decarbonisation of our gas network, as well for use in transport, industry, and power decarbonisation. It is welcome that the strategy recognises that the existing Green Gas Support Scheme is currently insufficient to meet the levels of production expected to be required by 2030. Government must now step up its ambition as it considers the next steps for the green gas sector.
“It is also welcome that the Strategy recognises the need for bioenergy pathways to hydrogen and negative emissions from biomethane production when combined with bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Both innovations are of high strategic importance for delivering net zero but lack clear routes to market. Government must ensure bio-hydrogen pathways are now awarded through the Hydrogen Production Business Model and that markets are appropriately developed for negative emissions.”
Terence McCracken, Chair of the REA’s Wood Heat Forum, and Sales Director for Innasol said:
“On behalf of the REA Wood Heat Forum, I welcome the publication of the Biomass Strategy and its significant contribution towards the delivery of the sixth carbon budget by 2035. The report makes clear that biomass boilers have a key role to play especially when it comes to addressing hard-to-treat sectors. The strategy demonstrates that there are around 220,000 off-gas grid domestic properties where biomass boilers are a viable and appropriate solution to decarbonisation, while also recognising that biomass will directly contribute to the wider decarbonisation of industry.
This huge opportunity, despite being several times larger than the current UK biomass heat sector, is not without its challenges. New biomass boiler deployment has slowed in recent years due to significant gaps in heat decarbonisation policy, particularly since the closure of the domestic and non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive. The Wood Heat Forum is calling for this to be addressed as a matter of urgency. The biomass boiler industry stands ready to help with further evolving training and accreditation, strong supply-chain sustainability and air quality standards that come from quality installations and, in turn, delivering considerable carbon savings.”
Ian Waller, Chair of the REA’s Renewable Transport Fuel Forum, and Founding Partner of In Perpetuum, said:
“We welcome the fact that the strategy identifies how sustainable biofuels are critical to the decarbonisation of transport, particularly heavy goods vehicles, aviation and marine fuels.
“Sustainable biofuels will continue to play an important role in domestic transport decarbonisation, delivering demonstrably sustainable carbon savings today and into the medium term. This must consider how increasing levels of biofuels can decarbonise the remaining internal combustion engine cars on our roads. It is time for government to be as brave with sustainable biofuels as they have been with Electric Vehicles and set world leading requirements for high blend biofuels.
“The upcoming Low Carbon Fuels Strategy must set out how this potential will be realised, with increased ambition within the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation.
“In addition, we highlight that the renewable fuels sector has consistently worked to world leading sustainability reporting standards, and we look forward to working with the Government to inform the development of a cross-sectoral sustainability framework.”
Steven Shaw, Chair of the REA’s Landfill Gas Member’s Forum, and Landfill Gas Manager at Veolia, said:
“We welcome the acknowledgement of the benefit of maximising methane capture at landfill sites and the renewable electricity it provides. Most sites will not be able to afford to continue beyond 2027 on current policies. It’s good to see that recognition that full repowering of these sites could play an important role in meeting both net zero and energy security objectives. We look forward to working closely with government to ensure that the necessary policies are put in place as quickly as possible.”
Dr Becky Wheeler, Chair of the REA’s Organics Forum, and head of Business Development at Future Biogas said:
“The use of biomass feedstocks within both bioenergy and the wider circular economy must also consider interactions with waste policy, ensuring the best use of resources. It is encouraging that the Biomass Strategy recognises these interactions, while also referencing impacts on the circular economy in the criteria for determining the Biomass Priority Use Framework. The strategy also acknowledges the need for biomethane BECCS to facilitate decarbonisation of UK agriculture and recognises the importance of soil health.
“However, the strategy is also a reminder of how delayed the implementation of the resources and waste strategy policy reforms are. Despite the Environment Act laid in 2021 mandating the separate collection of food waste from households and businesses and the separate collection of garden waste from households, we are still awaiting the secondary legislation to implement this. Similarly, biodegradable material is not expected to be banned from landfill until 2028. These policies must be prioritised in order to make the most of our resources both for the production of compost, and where appropriate, bioenergy production.”
The Governments Biomass Strategy, published today, will be available on the DES NZ website here: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-energy-security-and-net-zero