EBRI bioenergy expert urges government to use COP27 to move consumers away from fossil fuel use

  • COP27 should be turning point to switch from heating homes with fossil fuels.
  • Professor Patricia Thornley, was a presenter at COP26 in Glasgow.
  • She believes one year on there’s not enough progress to cut emissions from homes.

One of the UK’s leading bioenergy experts has said COP27 should be a turning point to help UK consumers switch from heating their homes with fossil fuels.

Professor Patricia Thornley, director of Aston University’s Energy and Bioproducts Institute (EBRI), was a presenter at COP26 in Glasgow last year.

She leads the UK’s national bioenergy research programme, SUPERGEN Bioenergy hub. Her research focuses on assessing the sustainability of bioenergy and low carbon fuels.

Professor Thornley believes that one year on, not enough has been done to encourage the public to cut down on the emissions their homes produce. The UK has the oldest housing stock among developed countries, with 8.5 million homes being at least 60 years old.

That is despite COP26’s reaffirmation of the Paris Agreement goal of moving away from fossil fuels, and the call for stronger national action plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

She has welcomed initiatives to help some UK industries move towards net zero, but believes householders are not getting the same support, for example with help to insulate their homes more effectively.

She said: “Responses to the energy crisis in which we find ourselves have been mixed.

“Government initiatives such as funding feasibility studies for hydrogen from bioenergy (turning biomass into hydrogen whilst separating and capturing the carbon portion of the biomass) and other technologies are promising.”

Professor Thornley adds: “The recent price hikes in petrol and natural gas highlight the extent to which the UK relies on fossil fuels.

“Unlike some areas of industry, domestic consumers have been treated differently, and recent help with energy costs is arguably subsidising us to keep emitting carbon dioxide.

“A more forward-thinking approach would have been to invest in tackling the root cause of the problem by addressing home insulation.”

Professor Thornley is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and recently gave evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee about the use of sustainable timber in the UK as an alternative fossil fuel.


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