Report finds biomass can play bigger role in UK energy production

By Erin Voegele | November 15, 2018

On Nov. 15, the U.K. Committee on Climate Change published a report on biomass that has determined sustainably sourced biomass feedstocks can play a fundamental role in decarbonizing the U.K. economy.

Information released by the committee indicates the report assesses the role wood, plants and organic waste can play in the global strategy to tackle climate change. It determine that these biomass sources can play an important role in meeting the U.K.’s 2050 emissions targets and help move the country toward net-zero emissions, assuming stricter governance ensures sustainable supplies.

According to the report, biomass could provide up to 15 percent of the U.K.’s energy by 2050, up from approximately 7 percent today. The report makes three overarching recommendations. First, the committee recommends the U.K. build up its forest and land carbon stores while increasing the supply of sustainably harvested biomass from U.K. sources. Second, the committee calls for improved U.K. and international governance over biomass feedstocks, noting the long-term role of biomass imports to the U.K. must depend on the success of these efforts. Finally, the committee said the U.K. must ensure biomass is used in the most effective way, meaning the current uses of biomass will need to change.

”We strongly support the CCC’s findings, which show the important role of biomass in the U.K.’s long-term energy system,” said Benedict McAleenan head of Biomass U.K., part of the Renewable Energy Association. “Crucially, they point out that trying to combat climate change without biomass would be harder and more expensive.

“Well-regulated biomass can provide benefits for forestry, agriculture and our energy system, backing up technologies like wind and solar,” he said. “In the future it will be combined with carbon capture to actually remove carbon from the atmosphere—a crucial role if we’re to stop climate change.

“We have always worked with government to develop world-leading sustainability regulations,” McAleenan continued. “We’ll look closely at this report’s policy recommendations to ensure biomass continues to cut carbon emissions, support forests and stabilize the energy system long into the future.”

“Decarbonizing heat in the U.K. is one of the biggest challenges we face, with around third of our emissions coming from heat alone,” said Neil Harrison, chair of the Wood Heat Association. “There are no silver bullets and we need a number of different technologies and approaches if we are going to be able to ensure a low carbon, low cost and sustainable way of heating our homes.

“The CCC’s latest report demonstrates that biomass should play a significant role in a future low-carbon economy and crucially, biomass can be used to help better forest management, increase carbon stocks in trees and soils, as well as to grow the supply of sustainably harvested biomass both globally and in the U.K.,” Harrison continued.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the CCC website.