REA: Report shows bioenergy is the leader in UK renewables

By Erin Voegele | March 27, 2019

The U.K. Renewable Energy Association has released new a report that is the first installment in its Bioenergy Strategy, an industry-led review of bioenergy’s potential and the policies needed to maximize its potential through 2030 and beyond.

The nearly 50-page report shows that bioenergy is currently a major contributor to cutting emissions and boosting green energy jobs in the U.K.

According to data cited in the report, bioenergy is currently the U.K.’s leading source of renewable energy, meeting 7.4 percent of the country’s total energy needs. This includes 11 percent of U.K. electricity, 4 percent of the energy used to produce heat, and 2 percent of energy needed in the transportation sector.

The report also indicates that bioenergy has also reduced U.K. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 4 percent, helped sustain 46,000 jobs, and is helping the country meet policy objectives related to waste management and forestry.

According to the REA, the U.K. Committee on Climate Change projected last year that bioenergy could double as a proportion of the country’s primary energy supply by 2050. However, promises made by the coalition government to renew its strategy by 2017 failed to materialize, leaving the sector adrift. The REA said gaps in the policy and regulatory framework for bioenergy are now growing, with existing support mechanism ending and the pipeline for future bioenergy projects being constrained.

“Whilst wind and solar rightly get huge credit for their achievements, bioenergy is the little-known leader in British renewables,” said Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the REA. 

“Bioenergy provides something special in each of our energy sectors,” she continued. “It offers diverse sources of energy that fuel British transport, heat and electricity—as well as boosting British industry. That helps our energy security, cuts costs, backs up other renewables, boosts competition, supports rural economies and creates green jobs.

“There’s amazing, world-beating innovation already happening here. We need to think carefully about how these sectors work together to get competitive, sustainable energy from our domestic and global bio-resource,” Skorupska said. This means securing existing bioenergy markets in the U.K. and addressing the widening policy gap to ensure skills and supply chains are maintained to deliver future growth.

“That’s why the REA is taking the lead to review and secure the potential of bioenergy long into the future,” she continued. “I ask government to take note as we need a clearer ambition from Ministers for this important sector. They promised to provide it, yet that’s two years overdue. Time for action.”

“So far the U.K.’s been successful in cutting carbon in the electricity sector, with biomass playing its part by stabilising the renewable power supply,” added Adam Brown, author of the Bioenergy Strategy report. “The progress has been astounding in the last decade, and whilst impressive, the power sector is the comparatively easy task.

“Next comes transport and heat, where we’ve made much less progress,” he said. “Bioenergy isn’t the whole answer but it’s already been the main contributor in both those sectors. Where it goes next—and how we get there—is what we’re examining in a way that no one else has in recent times.”

The next phase of the REA’s project will include the development of a vision of the role that bioenergy could play in the future of the U.K. energy economyby the end of the fifth carbon budget in 2032 through 2050 and beyond, while phase three will look at what the government, industry and other parties can do to realize that vision.

Additional information, including a link to the full report, is available on the REA website