Renewable Energy Association to assess potential role for bioenergy – including biomass, green gas and energy from waste – in meeting UK climate targets

A “far-reaching” review into the future of bioenergy in the UK has been launched by the Renewable Energy Association (REA), as the trade body seeks to quantify the extent to which the sector can contribute to the country’s decarbonisation goals.

The group has this week called on its members to submit their views and supporting evidence on the potential for biomass, green gas, and energy-from-waste technologies to help meet the UK’s legally binding climate targets.

Launched yesterday and running until 25 February, the call for evidence focuses on energy – both heat and power – generated from bio-based fuels such as wood pellets and biodiesel, and their role in helping meet the UK’s existing carbon budgets to 2032, as well as full decarbonisation by 2050.

It is aimed at helping inform a new policy strategy for government and industry currently being developed by the trade body for release later this year, which it said would outline “how bioenergy can fulfil its long-term potential in a low carbon energy mix”.

Independent renewables consultant Adam Brown, a former analyst at the International Energy Agency, has been appointed to lead the review and author the resulting report.

“Many of the policies which have helped spur the growth of bioenergy are now coming to an end and the energy markets and technologies have advanced significantly,” said Brown. “So it’s time for an update of the UK’s strategy. We want to explore the role of bioenergy and how public policy and industry practice need to change if we’re to get the most out of this sector. We’re looking at everything from sustainability and air quality to economic value and its ability to cut energy bills.”

Biomass energy and biofuels remain some of the most contentious parts of the green energy mix. Critics argue some sources of wood pellets and plant fuels are unsustainable, require significant areas of farmland to cultivate, and can do more harm than good for the climate.

However, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said last year that with stricter governance rules to ensure sustainable supplies for biomass, domestic biomass sources could more than double their contribution to total UK energy by 2050.

Moreover, advocates of bioenergy have argued that it could have a critical role to play in delivering a net zero emission economy, as biomass power plants combined with carbon capture technologies remain one of the few mechanisms for delivering negative emissions.

Counting various bioenergy firms as members, the REA is a leading advocate of biomass and renewable transport fuels as a means of providing clean and renewable heat and power in the UK.

Dr Nina Skorupska, REA chief executive, argued bioenergy had been central to the UK’s progress to date in cutting carbon emissions and had an important role to play going forward.

“Bioenergy is already a major part of British life,” she said. “It’s our largest source of renewable heat, second largest source of renewable power and is a key solution to decarbonising transport today and into the future. For bioenergy to fulfil its potential long into the future, we need a strong evidence base, expert inputs from industry and real political will. That’s why we’ve launched this review and invited all stakeholders to contribute their expertise.”