UK Energy Minister Charles Hendry today unveiled a new bioenergy strategy for the UK that could see the creation of a sector producing 11% of the country’s energy by 2020 while supporting 50,000 jobs.
Bioenergy or biomass is “one of the most versatile forms of low carbon and renewable generation”, which can be used to produce heat, electricity or transport fuels, he says, and without the intermittency issues that affect other renewable technologies.
Over the last year, the sector has invested over £1.75 billion in UK biomass technologies, which have the potential to support around 4800 new jobs. But with the right support mechanisms in place, this could be much more, says Hendry.
In a nod to environmental campaigners’ concerns about biomass, the Energy Minister says that the government recognises that bioenergy is “not automatically low carbon, renewable or sustainable” and admits that they don’t know how much sustainable biomass will be available to the UK in future.
So the first of the government four key principles in its bioenergy strategy is that the technology must offer genuine carbon savings.
The strategy’s second guiding principle is that bioenergy must be cost effective in meeting the government’s energy and climate change objectives.
According to Hendry, the government’s strategy will also be influenced by the needs of the wider bioeconomy and respond to risks such as food security and biodiversity.
In an article for Business Green, Hendry writes:
“We are clear that sustainable biomass could be a vital transitional fuel to reduce carbon emissions from current coal power generation. It can be an important tool in diverting waste away from landfill, and advanced biofuels could reduce carbon emissions across transport, particularly aviation and shipping where the alternatives are limited.”
He adds that the government is clear that it wants bioenergy to deliver a “significant amount” of low carbon energy to the UK.
The Renewable Energy Association (REA) has given a cautious welcome to the minister’s words but says that if biomass doesn’t meet strict criteria on sustainability, it won’t count as renewable.
“Imported biomass fuels for power generation can be just as green as when they are sourced locally, if used in large stations at ports serviced by large cargo ships,” says chief executive Gaynor Hartnell. “Adding sustainable biomass to the mix improves the nation’s energy security as well as our green credentials.”
For further information:
E.ON gets go ahead for 150 MW biomass plant in Bristol (13-Mar)
Drax drops plans for new UK biomass plants (23-Feb)
UK government needs to change approach to biomass, says CCC (7-Dec 2011)
26 April 2012