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Decarbonisation potential of biomass “still overlooked” in UK, says campaign group

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The decarbonisation potential of biomass is "still overlooked" in the UK, according to the Biomass Heat Works! campaign. The statement follows the announcement that the Rural Services Partnership (RSN) – an organisation which champions rural causes – will work alongside the campaign to further the nation’s decarbonisation agenda.

Forming part of the RSN, which provides a ‘national voice’ for remote farming and non-urban communities, the Rural Services Partnership is working with the UK’s biomass industry as part of its own wider agenda on renewable energy, decarbonisation and climate change.

“Rural communities are fully committed to playing their role in reducing carbon emissions,” said Graham Biggs, CEO of the Rural Services Network. “However, homes and businesses cannot be overlooked and left behind urban areas when it comes to heat decarbonisation.

“The Biomass Heat Works! campaign sits very well with our own policies addressing climate change and supporting net-zero pledges, but it is essential that there is a clear renewable energy strategy in place by Government for rural communities too and at present, there is no indication that this exists.”

Biggs noted that biomass usage in rural areas has increased, especially since the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) was introduced, creating “fantastic opportunities” for businesses to diversify, create jobs and boost income. He said: “These are viable and sustainable circular economies for those living and working in rural communities and in the current economic climate, it is essential that jobs and livelihoods are maintained whilst successfully tackling climate change. We’re delighted to be working with the UK Pellet Council and Wood Heat Association.”

According to the Biomass Heat Works! campaign, recent evidence suggests the UK could almost triple its use of bioenergy as a heat source and achieve net-zero targets by 2050, with biomass being a major contributor. However, the government’s “lack of forward planning” regarding the RHI scheme is having a “significant impact” on the development of future projects, according to the campaign.

Neil Holland of the UK Pellet Council added: “Many of the biomass heat industry’s 700 plus supply chain companies operate or are based in rural locations, creating thousands of much-needed jobs, therefore the RSN working with us is a huge boost.

“Green issues have been placed very much at the forefront of political agendas currently, and this is undoubtedly a huge step in the right direction. However, it cannot be just vote-winning narrative and soundbites.

“Unlike other European countries, the contribution towards a zero-carbon future made by biomass is still very much being overlooked here in the UK despite it being the most proven and commercially-ready solution available for heat decarbonisation, especially in rural areas.

“The government, whichever party is in power, needs to take urgent action and thereby extend support for the industry beyond 2021 to maintain the switch from fossil fuel to renewable energy heat. This would make a significant contribution to the 2050 carbon reduction targets whilst making rural businesses more resilient and homes more energy efficient.”