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The Government's new Biomass Strategy August 2023

The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA) has expressed its positive reception of the Government's newly published Biomass Strategy, which underscores the vital role of biomass in ensuring energy security and achieving Net Zero emissions.

The strategy lays out a clear vision for the sustainable use of biomass throughout various sectors of the economy. The REA is pleased to note that it incorporates numerous recommendations put forth in the REA's industry-driven Bioenergy Strategy from 2019. At a time when the focus is on America's Inflation Reduction Act, having renewed policy clarity on bioenergy will encourage investments in the UK.

The Biomass Strategy instils

confidence in well-established low-carbon industries, spanning power, heat, and transportation. This support safeguards the retention of skills, supply chains, and employment opportunities. Furthermore, the strategy can serve as a foundation for broader government decarbonization policies. It can help identify where biomass boilers, biofuels, and biogas can play substantial roles in sustainable heating, transportation, and industrial decarbonization. The strategy also underscores the significance of biomass in addressing challenging sectors such as sustainable aviation fuels and hydrogen production.

The UK has taken a global lead in developing regulations to ensure the sustainability of biomass, whether sourced domestically or internationally. The strategy continues this leadership by recognizing that biomass feedstocks originate from diverse sources, including forestry, agricultural residues, energy crops, waste wood, and residual waste streams. The industry looks forward to collaborating with the government as they progress toward establishing a cross-sectoral common sustainability framework, ensuring that the stringent, science-based sustainability governance remains current.

The strategy emphasizes the pivotal role of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), a distinctive technology that can simultaneously generate renewable energy and achieve negative emissions. BECCS captures and permanently stores CO2, creating a "carbon conveyor belt" that taps into the natural carbon cycle to permanently remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The strategy is accompanied by a report led by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero Chief Scientific Advisor's Task and Finish Group, which did not identify any insurmountable scientific barriers to the net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere and its permanent geological storage via BECCS.

While the REA commends the strategy's recognition of BECCS, it underscores the urgent need to go beyond recognition. Ministers must establish feasible routes to market for BECCS applications to enable large-scale carbon removal. Failure to do so would mean missing a critical tool for addressing climate change.

Lastly, it is encouraging to see that the strategy carefully models biomass availability from both UK and international sources. This modelling confirms that biomass demand for meeting Carbon Budget 6 falls within the overall biomass availability range. Moreover, when used sustainably, biomass can contribute to achieving Net Zero emissions by 2050. In line with the recommendations of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), the REA also calls for increased support for planting and using domestic biomass feedstocks, including perennial energy crops like miscanthus and willow, as well as short-rotation forestry. The growing demand for sustainable biomass presents a significant opportunity for UK landowners and farmers.

Seven UK energy trade organizations have jointly penned a letter addressed to Minister Graham Stuart, expressing their approval of the recently published Biomass Strategy.

The Strategy unequivocally emphasizes the pivotal role of sustainable and well-regulated biomass as a crucial instrument in achieving Net Zero emissions across the domains of power, heat, and transportation. The trade bodies commend the strategy for its recognition of the intricacies within the sector and its commitment to a robust, evidence-based approach during its formulation. The letter further reaffirms the industry's support for the establishment of a comprehensive cross-sectoral sustainability framework.

However, the letter also conveys a sense of urgency regarding the need to take more decisive actions in the coming months. It underscores the critical importance of government officials establishing viable pathways to market for "negative emissions" enabled by the fusion of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). The government must act promptly to enable the implementation of BECCS at various scales, as failing to do so would result in the absence of a crucial tool for combating climate change.

The complete text of the letter can be accessed here.

This letter bears the signatures of the following Trade Bodies:

  • Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA)

  • Energy UK

  • Wood Recyclers Association (WRA)

  • The Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE)

  • Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA)

  • UK Pellet Council (UK PC)

  • Coalition for Negative Emissions

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