Ministers must commit to 16% bioenergy to safeguard UK energy security

  • Bioenergy’s contribution must more than double by 2032 in order to meet demand across heat, power and transport in line with net zero
  • Report provides pathway for realising UK bioenergy potential and addressing growing policy gap

Researchers from Aston University’s Supergen Bioenergy Hub and the Renewable Energy Association (REA) are urging ministers to commit to 16-per cent of the UK’s primary energy supply to come from bioenergy by 2032 – in order to sustain UK’s energy security following the launch of a report in Westminster this week.

Bioenergy already supplies 7.4-per cent of the primary energy supply, but the report recommends this contribution must more than double by 2032 if the UK is to address impending deficits, such as the looming nuclear gap and meet growing electricity demand in the heat and transport sectors.

As well as delivering a further 117 TWh across heat and power, sustainably doubling the deployment of bioenergy would see up to 80-million tonnes of CO2 removed from the atmosphere annually – more than enough to bridge the nuclear gap and meet the shortfall in the carbon budgets.

Both the Science and Technology Commons Select Committee and the Committee on Climate Change have urged the Government to prioritise resolving the policy gap obstructing the deployment of new sources of heat and power generation. Without this the UK will lose valuable markets, expertise and resource in the run up to net zero.

The strategy sets out a comprehensive list of policy actions and industry commitments now needed to achieve the UK’s legally binding commitments and drive forward the industry.

Key recommendations include an obligation on gas suppliers to blend in a minimum amount of renewable gas following commitments made in the Spring Statement.

Recommendations include:

  • Introducing a replacement to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), currently funded until 2021. A replacement scheme is required to secure a market for renewable heat technologies including biomass boilers, anaerobic digestion and biofuels.  A heat premium feed-in scheme could ensure continued growth in these markets;
  • Growing biomethane production as a way of greening the gas grid via the introduction of a “Green Gas Obligation”;
  • Introducing the much delayed 10% ethanol blend for petrol (E10) in the transport sector, and raising ambitions within the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO);
  • Supporting the development of Bioenergy with Carbon Capture Use and Storage (BECCUS) including a Contract for Difference (CfD) for bioelectricity with CCUS.
  • Ensuring a progressive increase in carbon prices across the energy economy; reaching £70-80/t CO2 by 2026, and over £120 by 2032.

The report launched with a presentation of its key recommendations and a panel discussion on delivering the UK’s bioenergy potential featuring Professor Patricia Thornley, Director of the Supergen Bioenergy HubAston University, alongside industry experts and UK Research and Innovation.

Professor Thornley, Aston University said: “I’m very proud that the Supergen Bioenergy Hub has played such a key role in the development of this important publication through the academic input of our researchers. Bioenergy reduces the cost to the UK of meeting its carbon reduction targets and the need to move forward with this agenda is urgent.

“One of bioenergy’s attributes is it can save carbon immediately. Why wait 20 years for technologies with net negative carbon savings when we can reduce greenhouse gas emission by using biomass tomorrow? Academics should be providing technical support and independent sustainability guidance to today’s implementation while developing the technologies that can provide deeper carbon reductions in the long term.”

Author of the Bioenergy Strategy report, Dr Adam Brown said: “As we move to a more flexible and decentralised energy system, the role of bioenergy is vital; accommodating for the dispatchable energy required to moderate growing electricity demand and offering immediate and affordable solutions for the decarbonisation of hard-to-treat areas like heat and transport.

“Without bioenergy, the UK risks missing its legally binding net zero targets and falling victim to the looming nuclear gap. The policy gap facing the bioenergy sector must be addressed in order to maintain the UK’s energy security and capitalise on the opportunities the sector presents.” 

REA Chief Executive Dr Nina Skorupska says: “Time and time again the current and potential role that bioenergy plays in the energy system has been overlooked by ministers and government officials leading to it being deprived of the support it deserves.

“Bioenergy is the backbone of the renewables revolution providing all-important dispatchable power and the most advanced solution to meeting the demands of heat and transport. With 2050 targets locked into place, the Government must commit to doubling current levels to reach 16% bioenergy by 2032 to avoid future UK energy security concerns.”

Notes to editors