World of bioenergy reacts to UK’s Clean Growth Strategy
A number of important figures surrounding the bioenergy industry have reacted to the UK government’s new Clean Growth Strategy.
Greg Clark, the UK’s Business and Energy Secretary, published ‘The Clean Growth Strategy: Leading the way to a low carbon future’ on 12 October. Highlighting the current state of play in UK energy sector, the strategy also lays out a plan for cutting carbon emissions while growing the country’s economy.
The UK Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association (ADBA) welcomed the plans set out in the strategy, and argued that ‘the multifaceted nature’ of anaerobic digestion (AD) means it could make a ‘key’ contribution to meeting the strategy’s goal.
“We welcome the government’s ambition to divert all food waste from landfill by 2030 and to support local authorities in rolling out separate food waste collections,” said Charlotte Morton, ADBA chief executive. “We look forward to BEIS’s new Resources & Waste Strategy, which will need to be supported by meaningful funding and legislation to effect the scale of change needed for an urgent transition to a more circular economy.”
“The publication of the Clean Growth Strategy today is a welcome sign that the government is starting to think about how we can make the deep emissions cuts that will be necessary to meet the Fourth and Fifth Carbon Budgets over the next 15 years. What is needed now is tangible support for AD in the form of the following:
- Urgent tabling of legislation on the Renewable Heat Incentive to renew support for biomethane-to-grid;
- A long-term replacement for the Feed-In Tariff to support small-scale renewable electricity generation;
- Mandatory separate food waste collections in England to allow AD to recycle this vital and underused resource; and
- A new support system for farmers that rewards carbon abatement and incentivises the use of biofertiliser to restore soils.”
Energy Technologies Institute
The ETI, a public-private partnership between global energy and engineering companies – BP, Caterpillar, EDF, Rolls-Royce and Shell – and the UK Government, set out the next steps it feels are needed to make the strategy’s vision a reality.
“There are no silver bullets to decarbonisation,” said ETI’s CEO, Jonathan Wills.
“If we are to achieve an affordable transition to a low carbon energy system and meet the legally binding climate targets, we believe the answer is a blended mix of renewables, including nuclear, bioenergy, carbon capture and storage (CCS), gaseous fuels as well as a greater efficiency in buildings, industry and transport. We’re pleased that this approach is reflected in the strategy announced today. We now need to combine these in a flexible and adaptable way – technically and commercially.
Wills was particularly enthusiastic about the emphasis on carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the strategy. Earlier this year, ETI released a report saying bioenergy has the capability to meet around 10% of future UK energy needs and deliver net negative CO2 emissions of around 55 million tonnes per year in the 2050s if used in combination with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).
Finding the optimal system which combines the best technologies and business models is the key to clean growth, according to Wills.
“We need a system which is able to adapt to a changing societal need. Only by testing technologies and new commercial approaches at scale - learning by doing – underpinned by long term policy signals, will we provide the necessary confidence for investors.”
Michelle T. Davies, head of the clean energy and sustainability group Everheds Sutherland, was critical of the report, questioning the amount of funding being committed and raising concerns about the level of detail.
“In terms of what needs to be achieved the amounts committed are small. The energy transition sector is one in which the UK has a chance to take a leading role globally but many believe it needs greater government commitment.”
Davies concluded: “Some are questioning whether the Clean Growth Strategy can be delivered in full effect.”
The US based environmentalist organisation, the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), welcomed the intentions of the plan but was highly critical, claiming an opportunity has been missed to phase out what NRDC labels “dirty, costly and unnecessary bioenergy.”
Under the strategy’s Emissions Removal Pathway to 2050, CCUS with bioenergy is given a significant role to deliver greenhouse gas savings, something NRDC strongly objects to.
“NRDC believes CCUS in conjunction with forest biomass in the power sector remains an unproved and damaging climate mitigation proposition in that it suffers from the same major shortcomings associated with standalone electricity production from forest biomass,” said Debbie Hammel, director of the NRDC’s Land Markets Initiative.
Citing ‘overwhelming science from all over the world’, NRDC says the ‘carbon neutrality’ myth of forest biomass has been ‘debunked.’ NRDC has long argued that bioenergy poses sustainability risks to air quality, forests and carbon emissions.
“The 2032 pathway assumes an increase of 36% in annual final energy consumption of biomass, compared to an increase of only 4% of electricity,” Hammel continued. “This completely disregards the sustainability risks posed by bioenergy and the government’s own admission that bioenergy provides little or no GHG benefits.”
For Hammel, offshore wind and solar energy should be the way forward, while investment in forest biomass is ‘money up in smoke.’