- New report shows UK is the world-leader in sustainable bioenergy, with the highest share of electricity production from biomass of any large country
- Sustainable biomass providing solutions at every stage of the energy transition – through coal-to-biomass conversions, support for other renewables, and future “negative emissions”
- REA look to Government’s biomass strategy update as next key milestone
The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA) have said that a new report highlights how the UK’s ‘global leadership’ in bioenergy is setting an example to the rest of the world in transitioning from coal to net zero.
‘Electric Insights: Q1 2021: Britain’s Transition From Coal To Biomass To BECCS’, an independent report by academics from Imperial College London for Drax Electric Insights, has shown that the UK is the largest user of sustainable bioenergy, which uses plant materials and organic wastes to generate renewable energy.
The UK’s share of electricity generation from biomass has tripled over the past decade, hitting an all-time high of 11% in 2020. This means that the UK has the highest share of electricity production from biomass of any large country (ones with over 100 TWh/year electricity demand).
Progress over the last 15 years has meant that sustainable bioenergy has played a central role in:
- Replacing coal by converting old coal power stations to sustainable fuels, which has helped the UK’s world-leading rapid reduction of coal in its energy system;
- Supporting other renewables, such as wind and solar, by providing a back-up low-carbon energy source and helping to stabilise the energy system;
- Laying the groundwork for BECCS, which can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping us to reach Net Zero.
The UK has also “played a major part in developing the science-led sustainability criteria that govern the use of biomass”, say Dr Nina Skorupska of the REA, Dr Iain Staffell, Prof Richard Green, Prof Tim Green and Dr Malte Jansen of Imperial College London.
The transition from coal to biomass to BECCS (Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage) outlines the versatility of biomass for electricity generation to contribute at each stage of a country’s decarbonisation journey.
Commissioned via Imperial Consultants, the report shows the important role that sustainable biomass has played so far in taking coal off the electricity system and supporting variable renewables.
Comparing 2012 to 2019, coal-to-biomass conversions reduced carbon emissions by 10 MtCO2 per year, equivalent to taking 2.17 million cars off the road every year. By the mid-2030s, BECCS could be removing 40 MtCO2 per year from the atmosphere, comparable to total annual emissions in 2020.
Sustainable bioenergy will be vital to the future of the UK’s energy mix and decarbonisation targets. The deployment of BECCS means annual carbon emissions from electricity generation could fall negative as early as 2030 in National Grid’s scenarios.
Dr Nina Skorupska, CBE, CEO of the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA), said: “Sustainable biomass has been key to the UK’s decarbonisation success so far and has supported the expansion of variable renewables like wind and solar. Negative emissions through Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage will be vital to achieving our Net Zero targets and will be delivered by building on the UK’s world-leading biomass sectors and adhering to strict science-led sustainability governance.
“We look forward to the publication of an update this summer on the upcoming Biomass Strategy, which we hope will provide a clear direction for the further development of the bioenergy sector over the coming years.”
Dr Iain Staffell, lead author of Electric Insights, said: “The versatility of sustainable biomass for electricity generation is an overlooked success story in the UK. It has helped the UK to rapidly decarbonise its power sector and looks set to continue to deliver key strategic benefits through Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage and the potential for negative emissions.”
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Notes to editors:
Jamie Horton, Advisor to Biomass UK
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About the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA)
The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (known as the REA) is the UK’s largest trade association for renewable energy and clean technologies with around 550 members operating across heat, transport, power and the Circular Economy. The REA is a not-for-profit organisation representing fourteen sectors, ranging from biogas and renewable fuels to solar and electric vehicle charging. Membership ranges from major multinationals to sole traders.
Biomass UK is the forum within the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA) which focuses on biomass power and its associated supply chain. Biomass UK works to promote a better understanding of biomass energy and its benefits to the UK.
For more information, visit: www.r-e-a.net