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Meeting Net-Zero GHG not possible without bioenergy

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A new report from the UK Renewable Energy Association (REA) has found that the sustainable use of bioenergy is core to the UK meeting its legally binding 5th Carbon Budget.

The report Bioenergy in the UK – Vision to 2032 and Beyond has found that sustainable bioenergy can meet two thirds of the projected shortfall of the 5th Carbon Budget, bioenergy can provide an additional 60 TWh of heat and 57 TWh of power – more than required to close the impending nuclear gap – and that bioenergy is a no-regrets solution to carbon reduction offering immediate greenhouse gas (GHG) savings across power, heat and transport whilst supporting evolving supply chains and technologies.

By increasing its deployment by a factor of 2.5 by 2032, sustainable bioenergy, which is currently the UK’s leading source of renewable energy, has the potential to meet both the Committee on Climate Change’s projected shortfall of the 5th Carbon Budget and the impending nuclear gap by providing an additional 117 TWh across heat, transport and power.

Last month, the Committee on Climate Change published their net-zero by 2050 recommendations just three weeks after data from BEIS confirmed that the UK are not on track to meet the 4th and 5th Carbon Budgets. Bioenergy technologies, such as modern biomass boilers, biofuels and anaerobic digestion, offer an immediate and affordable route to tackling these challenges by providing instantaneous carbon reductions in the hard to decarbonise areas of heat and transport.

The report builds upon bioenergy’s already impressive credentials by outlining its potential contribution to the UK energy mix in 2032 and beyond. The delivery of the outlined vision would see the demand for bioenergy’s overall energy contribution increase from 5.5% in 2020 to 15% in 2032 creating over 100,000 jobs.

The report is the second instalment in the REA Bioenergy Strategy, an industry-led review of bioenergy’s potential and the policies needed for it to maximise potential through to 2030 and beyond; it concluded that bioenergy, which uses sustainable biomass and biofuels produced from wood, crops and food wastes, is the lowest cost route to heat decarbonisation, while also providing a pathway to the development and commercial deployment of future technologies.

It also found that wood fuels could make a substantially larger contribution to meeting heating needs for buildings and industry, playing a particular role in providing low carbon heating in off gas-grid properties and those where heating via heat pumps is more challenging.

Dr Adam Brown, author of the Bioenergy Strategy report said, “If the UK is to achieve net-zero GHG by 2050 and meet its legally binding Carbon Budgets, we must adhere to the advice of the Committee on Climate Change and significantly increase the deployment of renewable technologies. Bioenergy presents numerous options across heat, power and transport, and the UK is not in a position to be casting away renewable, sustainable and cost effective solutions. This report outlines the possibilities for the UK if we grasp the opportunity the bioenergy sector presents.”

Biomass could play a pivotal role in heat decarbonisation and help the UK meet its renewable heat targets, AMP Clean Energy is one of the industry partners that contributed to the review, and its CEO Richard Burrell commented, "Biomass is a proven, world -renowned technology which can continue to make a significant contribution to the decarbonisation of heat in the UK. Under the [Renewable Heat Incentive], 87% of renewable heat to date has come from biomass, which has been particularly successful in decarbonising community buildings, schools, hotels and agricultural processes.  We now need off-gas grid industrial processes to convert from fossil fuels to biomass and we can help with the financing, fuel and operation and maintenance."

With the Renewable Heat Incentive coming to an end in 2021, new systems would need to be installed before then, continues Burrell, “We need to find a way to deliver the much-needed transition to renewable heat generation to build on some of the positive steps that have already been taken and to avoid a cliff-edge for new renewable heat installations after 2021. At AMP Clean Energy we are considering what mechanisms could be deployed to achieve this and look forward to discussing our thoughts with Government.”

Dr Nina Skorupska, REA chief executive said, “Increasing the deployment of bioenergy is the only realistic solution to affordably and sustainably bridge the anticipated energy gap and rapidly decarbonise the UK in line with legally binding targets. Bioenergy is a no regrets solution to achieving these targets due to its ability to provide immediate and affordable GHG savings through existing infrastructure whilst facilitating the development and commercialisation of future technologies.”