More bioenergy needed to meet targets – report

The UK committee on climate change says it will be difficult to meet carbon budgets without the use of bioenergy and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

In order to meet the country’s 2050 targets, bioenergy will need to make up a total of 10% of all energy produced, rather than the 2% it currently stands at.

The review of UK energy says a 10% share of bioenergy could make it feasible to hit targets but even with these results it could still cause environmental and social issues and any more than 10% of bioenergy actually has the potential to harm the environment.

The report lists five recommendations for the government to follow including:

  1. Regulatory frameworks need to be further implemented so that bioenergy does not create more emissions than it is meant to be saving. It says if regulation is not tightened, issues such as indirect land use could further harm the environment. It adds that in the UK, biomass in energy production should be reduced from 85g CO₂/kWh to 200g CO₂/kWh
  2. CCS needs to be implemented immediately in order to allow for carbon to be taken from the atmosphere. The government needs to set targets so that this can happen straight away.
  3. The government needs to make sure targets for biofuels and bioenergy are flexible and should delay putting in place new targets so that bioenergy used in the country is sustainable.
  4. Subsidies should not be given out to large-scale biomass under the renewable obligation because they would be ‘costly and unsustainable’. Instead the government should focus on ‘co-firing and conversion of existing coal plant, and new small-scale generation, using sustainable local bioenergy supplies’.
  5. Other low carbon options should be investigated, such as nuclear and wind power generation, electric vehicles and electric heating.

David Kennedy, chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change says: ‘The extent to which bioenergy should contribute to economy decarbonisation is highly controversial. Our analysis shows that there is a crucial role for bioenergy in meeting carbon budgets, but within strict sustainability limits – and trade-offs with wider environmental and social objectives may be needed.’

He adds: ‘Strengthening of regulatory arrangements is required both here and in Europe to provide confidence that bioenergy used over the next decade is sustainable. CCS should be demonstrated and demonstration projects commenced given the crucial role of this technology when used with bioenergy to meet carbon budgets. The government should change its approach to supporting new biomass power generation, which as proposed could raise costs with limited carbon benefits.’

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