BEIS reports UK bioenergy production is up

The UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published its ‘Energy Trends’ data for 2017.

Energy production was 0.4% higher in 2017 than the previous year, according to the government data. This modest rise was the result of increases in bioenergy, gas, wind, solar and hydro output. Coal output apparently hit a record low, while oil and nuclear’s contribution to the energy mix also fell.

The overall share of renewables in electricity generation increased from 22% in the fourth quarter of 2016 to 30.2% in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Over the period, bioenergy and waste energy generation grew by 11.6%, reaching 12 million tonnes of oil equivalent.

In the Energy Trends reports, Bioenergy and Waste includes solid renewable sources (wood, straw and waste), a small amount of renewable primary heat sources (solar, geothermal etc), liquid biofuels and sewage gas and landfill gas.

The total bioenergy electricity capacity increased by 4.2% (241MW). This was largely down to a 145MW plant biomass capacity increase, including the 40MW Margam plant in Wales.

Significantly, the report notes that bionergy’s load factor (calculated from average capacity at the start and end of the quarter) fell by 55.8% in quarter four 2017. According to the BEIS report, this was the result of the biomass units at Drax power station suffering maintenance outages.


Unrealised potential?

Commenting on the BEIS report, Benedict McAleenan, Head of Biomass UK, told Bioenergy Insight that despite the positive news that renewables are at a record high, more needs to be done to ensure different energy sources, such as biomass, are valued properly.

“With coal at record lows and renewables at record highs, there’s a lot of good news here. However, to deliver this changing energy mix at lowest cost and without undermining a stable supply, we need a broad mixture of energy sources. That means rewarding technologies, such as biomass power, that are ‘dispatchable’ – i.e. they’re available whenever they’re needed.

 “Biomass and other low-carbon dispatchables provide a reliable back-up to support more variable but much-needed resources like wind and solar. This value isn’t just delivered in the form of on-demand generation capacity, but also the wide range of grid balancing services. Without those services, consumers would pay even higher rates to manage the grid.

 “The design of the energy markets doesn’t currently reflect the fact that different technologies can provide different services and so doesn’t value them properly. We could see more low-carbon renewables at lower cost if that was fixed.”


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