The first instalment of the REA’s industry-led Bioenergy Strategy for the United Kingdom has been published.
The report aims to set out a clear vision for the role bioenergy has to play in the decarbonisation of the UK’s energy requirements across power, heat and transport up to 2030 and beyond.
Phase one of this report reveals Bioenergy as a major contributor to cutting emissions and boosting green jobs in the UK today.
Bioenergy, which uses sustainable biomass and biofuels produced from wood, crops and food wastes, is already the UK’s leading source of renewable energy, meeting 7.4% of our total energy needs. Only wind exceeds its output in the renewable power sector.
Bio-based fuel technologies are estimated to cut 19.7 million tonnes of CO2e per year, replacing £21 billion worth of fossil fuels and supporting 46,000 jobs throughout the UK.
The Committee on Climate Change projected last year that bioenergy could double as a proportion of the UK’s primary energy supply by 2050. However, promises made in 2012 by the coalition government to renew its strategy by 2017 failed to materialise, leaving the sector to drift. The gaps in the policy and regulatory framework are now growing, with existing support mechanisms ending, and the pipeline for future bioenergy projects being constrained.
The report’s key messages:
• Bioenergy is recognised as a key renewable energy technology, and an essential component of a low carbon energy economy, internationally and in the UK, playing an important role in providing electricity, heat and transport fuels. The Committee on Climate Change has concluded
that bioenergy could provide up to 15% of UK energy demand in a low carbon economy by 2050, highlighting the important role bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) could play in hard to decarbonise sectors such as aviation.
• In the last 10 years bioenergy’s contribution to the UK has grown strongly, helped by a supportive policy framework. Bioenergy is the largest contributing renewable technology in the UK, providing 7.4% of primary energy supply and: 11% of UK electricity; 4% of energy used to produce heat; 2% of energy needed in the transport sector
• This deployment has established a portfolio of technologies which are tried and tested and stimulated cost reductions so that bioenergy options provide some of the lowest-cost renewable solutions.
• The issues around the sustainability of bioenergy are better understood and industry has worked with government to put in place strict and comprehensive sustainability management systems which ensure that bioenergy leads to very substantial reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while complying with wider sustainability objectives.
• These contributions provide significant benefits to the UK, including: a 4% reduction in UK greenhouse gas emissions; business worth £6.5bn to the UK economy and which sustains 46,000 jobs; helping to meet policy objectives in other policy areas such as waste management and forestry.
• The expansion of the industry has helped build industry expertise and the development of fuel supply chains (from within and outside the UK) that will be essential in underpinning the necessary expansion of the sector as part of a low carbon energy economy.
• The current policy and regulatory framework which has helped the recent progress is, however, time-limited with many of the key policy instruments, such as the Renewables Obligation (RO) and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) now closed and due to close, respectively. The future regulatory context is unclear, and the associated uncertainty makes industry investment very difficult, if not impossible, for the scale required.
• The further expansion of bioenergy is being held back by other barriers such as the imposition of unnecessarily limiting sustainability regulations which constrain bioenergy developments and leave opportunities for continued fossil fuel use. For example, unrealistically tight GHG limits on bioenergy generation will prolong gas generation with emissions which are typically five times higher.
Further information about the development of the REA’s Bioenergy Strategy and the next phase can be found at: www.bioenergy-strategy.com