Survey shows 80% of UK public supports biomass and waste energy

There is strong public support for producing bioenergy in the UK from both biomass and waste, according to a new survey carried out for the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).

The YouGov survey, commissioned by the ETI, questioned over 5,300 adults to gauge public perceptions of bioenergy in the UK, and found that 74% of people surveyed support producing bioenergy from biomass and 81% support producing biomass from waste.

Generating energy from waste and being a renewable source of energy were seen as the most positive features of bioenergy and the public would be comfortable with a mix of imported and domestic biomass feedstocks, provided imports are used in addition to, not instead of, domestic resources.

“It is encouraging that levels of support for bioenergy compare favourably with other renewable energy technologies and the public associate bioenergy with a wide range of positive features, particularly the fact that it can be generated from waste materials and is also seen as a renewable source of energy that can reduce the UK’s dependence on fossil fuels,” said Hannah Evans, strategy analyst for biofuels at the ETI.

Over a third of respondents were concerned about biomass competing with other land uses such as food production, but ETI case studies have shown that they can complement each other.

“It is important to demonstrate that biomass feedstocks can be planted successfully on otherwise low-yielding land, and when sited considerately, can complement, rather than compete with, food production,” Evans added.

The government (31%) is seen as the most popular choice to lead the development of the UK bioenergy sector.

Bioenergy can play a significant and valuable role in the future UK energy system, helping reduce the cost of meeting the country’s 2050 greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets by more than 1% of gross domestic product (GDP).

Evans sees in the high public support an opportunity for the government to work with a variety of organisations to increase awareness and understanding of bioenergy, in parallel to developing the bioenergy sector in the UK.

Call for CCS

The ETI recently published a report The Evidence for Deploying Bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) in the UK which highlighted the importance of combining bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) if the UK is to meet its 2050 greenhouse gas emission reduction targets cost-effectively.

The ETI’s internationally peer-reviewed Energy System Modelling Environment (ESME) suggests that bioenergy, in combination with carbon capture and storage (CCS), could meet around 10% of projected UK energy demand, whilst delivering net negative emissions of approximately -55Mt CO2 per year in the 2050s.

This is roughly equivalent to half the UK’s emissions target in 2050 and reduces the need for more expensive decarbonisation measures in other sectors such as aviation and shipping.

In the absence of CCS, bioenergy is still a cost-effective means of decarbonisation and should play an important role in meeting the 2050 emissions target.

The ETI has delivered a number of projects to building an evidence base to assess the sustainability of land use change to biomass production in the UK, develop modelling tools to identify optimal bioenergy value chains for the UK and develop low carbon energy technologies that deliver carbon savings, which could be maximised if combined with CCS.

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