UK REA urges the government to reassert its commitment to biomass

By Erin Voegele | June 17, 2021

The U.K. Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology submitted comments to the U.K. Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in early June urging the government to reassert its commitment to delivering a strong biomass sector by continuing to build on existing bioenergy heat, transport and power sectors.

The BEIS on April 20 opened a public consultation seeking evidence on how sustainable biomass should be sourced and used to support the country’s net-zero target. The agency said comments filed during the consultation period will inform the development of the U.K.’s upcoming biomass strategy.

The REA on June 17 issued a statement outlining the comments it submitted to the BEIS earlier this month. In its response, the REA welcomed the government’s recognition that biomass has a critical role to play in getting to net zero, but said that it is essential that policy gaps facing the sector are addressed.

The REA’s response also stresses the significant potential for the growth of domestic biomass. Providing demand for wood products would drive tree planting and bring more woodlands into sustainable management, the REA said, noting that market dynamic must be recognized by the government in order to realize future tree planting and bioenergy targets.

The REA also said that the delivery of successful bioenergy sectors will deliver further innovation, including bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECSS), which will deliver negative emissions needed to meet the U.K.’s net zero targets.

The comments identify several policy gaps that the REA said the government must address. Those gaps include the need to develop a replacement for the non-domestic renewable heat incentive; the need to increase the targets of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation in order to drive the development of fuels needed to decarbonize heavy goods vehicles, airplanes and shipping; and the need to provide post-2027 sector confidence for the continue use of existing bioenergy plants, which will allow those facilities to invest in critical BECSS technology once the Renewables Obligation ends.

“We welcome the government’s commitment to recognizing the critical role biomass has to play in getting to net zero and the need to for an up-to-date strategy to see this delivered,” said Mark Sommerfeld, head of power and flexibility at the REA.

“Biomass already plays a fundamental role in decarbonizing the U.K., providing the largest contribution to renewable energy across power, heat and transport overall,” he added.

“Therefore, future biomass policy must build on the success of existing industries, providing immediate carbon savings while the U.K. moves forward with the energy transition. It is essential that policy gaps facing the sector today are addressed to further strengthen existing biomass supply chains, expertise and the near 50,000 jobs already associated with the sector.

“Now is the time for Government to re-assert its commitment to delivery of a strong biomass sector, already operating within a stringent sustainability governance regime, ensuring bioenergy remains an example of strong U.K. leadership around the world,” Sommerfeld continued. “We look forward to working with the government to continue to support this internationally significant sector through further development of the Biomass Strategy, so that it is able to fulfil its role in helping the U.K. meet its net zero ambitions.”

A full copy of the REA’s response is available on the organization’s website