UK must develop bioenergy to hit net-zero emissions

If the UK is to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 it will not be possible without harnessing the potential of sustainable bioenergy, the Renewable Energy Association (REA) has said.

In its new Bioenergy Strategy report, the renewable energy trade body said that sustainable bioenergy would be a ‘no regrets’ solution to the UK’s carbon reduction issues, offering immediate savings across the power, heat and transport sectors.

Increasing the deployment of sustainable bioenergy by a factor of 2.5 by 2032 would help the UK meet two-thirds of the predicted shortfall of its fifth carbon budget – set to run from 2028 to 2032, the REA said.

The move would also provide the UK with an additional 117 terawatt-hours of energy, helping to fill its anticipated nuclear power gap, the REA said.

REA Chief Executive Dr Nina Skorupska said: ‘Increasing the deployment of bioenergy is the only realistic solution to affordably and sustainably bridge the anticipated energy gap and rapidly decarbonise the UK in line with legally binding targets.

‘Bioenergy is a no regrets solution to achieving these targets due to its ability to provide immediate and affordable GHG [greenhouse gas] savings through existing infrastructure whilst facilitating the development and commercialisation of future technologies.’

Sustainable bioenergy is already the UK’s leading source of renewable energy and is set to become more crucial as the UK moves away from nuclear power, which produced a fifth of the country’s electricity generation last year.

Last month the Committee on Climate Change urged the UK government to set a net-zero carbon target of 2050 after new forecasts warned that the UK is currently set to miss its fourth and fifth carbon targets from 2023 to 2032.

Embracing bioenergy technologies – including biomass boilers, biofuels and anaerobic digestion – would be an instant and affordable way of tackling these challenges, as they would immediately achieve carbon reductions in heat and transport, the REA said.

If the report’s recommendations are followed, the REA said that bioenergy could raise its overall contribution to the UK’s energy mix from 5.5% in 2020 to 15% in 2032, creating over 100,000 jobs in the process.

Dr Adam Brown, author of the Bioenergy Strategy report, said: ‘If the UK is to achieve net-zero GHG by 2050 and meet its legally binding Carbon Budgets, we must adhere to the advice of the Committee on Climate Change and significantly increase the deployment of renewable technologies.

‘Bioenergy presents numerous options across heat, power and transport, and the UK is not in a position to be casting away renewable, sustainable and cost effective solutions.’

According to a report by the International Energy Agency last week, bioenergy electricity generation increased by over 8% worldwide in 2018, maintaining its average growth rates since 2011.

However, the IEA raised concerns that long-term clean energy goals may still not be met as 2018 was the first year that growth in renewable energy capacity did not rise since 2001.

Image credit: Rosser1954 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Chris Ogden

Chris Ogden

Digital News Reporter

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