Climate advisers back larger energy role for biomass

A fivefold expansion in the share of the UK's energy drawn from biomass is needed to hit greenhouse gas reduction targets, government advisers have urged.

A review of bioenergy’s potential issued by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) argues that the sector’s contribution to UK supply may need to rise to ten per cent to meet the government’s target of reducing 1990 levels of carbon dioxide emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

At present, the committee reports, around two per cent of UK energy supply is drawn from combustion of solid, liquid or gas fuels made from biomass feedstocks.

The CCC said that incorporating carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology into biomass generators would allow higher cuts in emissions. It urged the government to take CCS demonstration projects forward "as a matter of urgency".

However, the review argues that subsidies should not be provided to new large-scale biomass power stations under the Renewables Obligation support system for energy projects. "The government should change its approach to supporting new biomass power generation, which as proposed could raise costs with limited carbon benefits," said CCC chief executive David Kennedy.

"Our analysis shows that there is a crucial role for bioenergy in meeting carbon budgets, but within strict sustainability limits," said Kennedy. "Strengthening of regulatory arrangements is required both here and in Europe to provide confidence that bioenergy used over the next decade is sustainable."

The findings of the review will feed in to the government’s bioenergy strategy and to the committee’s advice on the inclusion of international aviation and shipping in carbon budgets, due to published next spring.

The Bioenergy Review is here.

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