UK white paper says BECCS, RNG will help meet net zero goal

By Erin Voegele | December 14, 2020

The U.K. government on Dec. 14 published a white paper that describes how the country will clean up its energy system and reach net zero emissions by 2050. Bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and renewable natural gas (RNG) will play an integral role in reaching that goal.

According to the white paper, the ability of BECCS to deliver negative emissions makes biomass one of the U.K.’s most valuable tools to reaching net zero emissions. The white paper confirms that the U.K. government plans to publish a new Biomass Strategy in 2022 that will describe how the renewable resource can best be utilized to help the U.K. reach its net zero goals. As part of that effort, the government said it will soon issue a call for evidence on “Biomass for net zero” to inform the development of its biomass strategy. A preliminary position paper is expected to be released in mid-2021.

Biomethane, also referred to as RNG, will also play a key role in reaching the U.K.’s net zero goal, according to the white paper. The government is in the process of developing a support scheme for RNG. That scheme is currently expected to launch in fall 2021 and run four years. It will support continued deployment of anaerobic digestion biomethane plants in order to increase the proportion of green gas in the grid, the government said in the whit paper. That green gas support scheme is expected to deliver 2.8 terawatt hours (TWh) of renewable heat annually by 2030-’31, which is enough to heat approximately 230,000 homes.

Drax Group plc is already working to pilot BECCS technology at its biomass-fired power station in the U.K. Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax, has spoken out in support of the white paper, noting it recognizes negative emissions and sustainable biomass as a vital technology to achieve net zero.

“I’m delighted that over the coming year the Government will establish the role of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) in reducing emissions,” Gardiner said. “The Energy White Paper rightly recognizes negative emissions and sustainable biomass as a vital technology to achieve net zero by 2050.

“Next year will be critical to build on the momentum of the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan,” he added. “At Drax, we’re ready to invest in and deliver BECCS at our power station in North Yorkshire as well as in expanding our pumped storage at our hydro plant at Cruachan in Scotland. This will help meet net zero, whilst creating jobs, skills and demonstrating global leadership at COP26.”

The U.K. Renewable Energy Association has also spoken out in support of the white paper. “We welcome the continued commitment to renewables and the green transition in this morning’s announcement, especially the recognition that energy efficiency must be prioritized alongside new capacity,” said Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the REA. “While there is little new on the renewables side, the commitment to EV funding, and recognition of biomass a ‘strategic sector’ is welcome as is certainty on the successor ETS scheme for the UK.”

“This White Paper, though, comes after the Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon budget recommendations for the need to bend the Green House Emissions ‘curve’ sooner rather than later and the need to accelerate our low carbon transition,” she added.

“Ideally, we would have seen more on the Government’s plans for decarbonizing the hard-to-treat heat and transport sector, so today’s announcement should be seen as another step on the journey rather than a be all and end all publication,” Skorupska continued.

A full copy of the white paper can be downloaded from the U.K. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy website