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UK must ‘reassert its commitment’ to biomass, says REA

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The UK Government must ‘reassert its commitment’ to delivering a strong biomass sector, said the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA).

The REA’s response welcomed the government’s recognition that biomass has a critical role to play in reaching net-zero, but said it was essential that policy gaps facing the sector are addressed.

Policy gaps highlighted by the REA include a replacement to the Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive, which closed in March, with support for fuel switching to help decarbonise heat in commercial and industrial applications; increase the stated ambitions within the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation to 2032 to drive the development of fuels needed to decarbonise heavy goods vehicles, planes, and shipping; provide post-2027 sector confidence for the continued use of existing bioelectricity plants, enabling them to invest in critical CCS technology once the Renewable Obligation ends.

Development of the response followed a series of REA roundtables with industry stakeholders, with over 100 bioenergy practitioners providing input. This was accompanied by close engagement with the government’s biomass strategy team and several bilateral discussions with MPs.

Mark Sommerfeld, head of power and flexibility at the REA, said the association welcomed the government’s commitment to recognising the role of biomass and the need for an up-to-date strategy to ensure this is delivered.

“Biomass already plays a fundamental role in decarbonising the UK,” said Sommerfeld, “providing the largest contribution to renewable energy across power, heat, and transport overall.

“Therefore, future biomass policy must build on the success of existing industries, providing immediate carbon savings while the UK moves forward with the energy transition.

“It is essential that policy gaps facing the sector today are addressed to further strengthen the existing biomass supply chains, expertise and the near 50,000 jobs already associated with the sector.

“Now is the time for the government to re-assert its commitment to the delivery of a strong biomass sector, already operating within a stringent sustainability governance regime, ensuring bioenergy remains an example of strong UK leadership around the world.

“We look forward to working with the government to continue to support this internationally significant sector through further development of the Biomass Strategy so that it can fulfil its role in helping the UK meet its net-zero ambitions.”

The REA’s full response also highlights the significant potential for the growth of domestic biomass feedstocks, providing essential demand for wood products that drives tree planting and brings more woodlands into sustainable management. It said this market dynamic must be recognised by the government if it is to realise its future tree planting and bioenergy targets.

The association also said that the delivery of successful bioenergy sectors will deliver further innovation, including BECCS, which will deliver negative emissions which the Committee on Climate Change has labelled of critical importance if the UK’s emissions targets are to be met.