UK report targets net-zero GHG emissions, bioenergy can help

By Erin Voegele | May 06, 2019

The U.K. Committee on Climate Change published a report May 2 that recommends the government set a goal to reach net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, noting that declining renewable energy costs make the target affordable. Drax and the U.K. Renewable Energy Association say bioenergy can help meet that goal.

According to the committee, a net-zero GHG target for 2050 will deliver on the commitment that the U.K. has made under the Paris Agreement. “It is achievable with known technologies, alongside improvements in people’s lives, and within the expected economic cost that Parliament accepted when it legislated the existing 2050 target for an 80 percent reduction from 1990,” said the CCC in a statement.

However, the CCC also cautioned reaching the goal would only be possible “if clear, stable and well-designed policies to reduce emissions further are introduced across the economy without delay” and noted “current policy is insufficient for even the existing targets.”

Drax issued a statement noting the committee’s report recommends that bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) be deployed at scale by 2030.

“We stand ready to implement the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendations and scale up the successful BECCS pilot at Drax to create the world’s first negative emissions power station in the mid-2020s,” said Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax Group. “Bioenergy with carbon capture is the cornerstone around which a low carbon economy can be built: Crucial for tackling climate change, it will also create new jobs and export opportunities for British businesses.”

Biomass U.K., a part of the REA, said significant policy support should be implemented in order to expedite BECCS infrastructure. “To hit the target, we’ll need to draw further on the U.K.’s largest source of renewable energy—bioenergy,” said Benedict McAleenan, senior advisor to Biomass U.K. “The CCC has especially highlighted that bioenergy with carbon capture is a necessity, not an option. Fortunately Drax in North Yorkshire is already leading the way with the world’s first pilot of bioenergy with carbon capture.”

“Sustainably sourced biomass is already providing up to 11 percent of U.K. electricity, second only to wind,” McAleenan continued. “However, in order to meet the energy needs of a net-zero U.K., we need to get the policies right to support bioenergy into the long-term. Government now needs to provide clear, bankable and long-term support for U.K. biomass power and CCUS infrastructure.”

The U.K. Wood Heat Association, also part of the REA, noted heat accounts for approximately one-third of the U.K.’s GHG emissions and said decarbonizing heat will only be achieved if the deployment of proven renewable heat technologies is rapidly scaled. The group said this should include the use of modern clean-burning biomass heating systems.

“There are no silver bullets for decarbonizing heat, which has always been the least visible of the U.K.’s emission reduction efforts, and we need a range of proven technologies and approaches if we are to ensure a low carbon, low cost and sustainable way of heating our homes, businesses and public spaces,” said Neil Harrison, chair of the Wood Heat Association.

“We welcome the CCC's recommendation for stronger ambitions and setting a target for Net Zero by 2050,” Harrison continued. “This will only be achieved if we act today and make the most of established renewable heat technologies. Biomass heat has a key role to play in delivering immediate carbon savings if the U.K. is going to realistically meet these tighter targets.”

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