UK REA urges government to commit to 16% bioenergy goal

By Erin Voegele | September 09, 2019

The U.K. Renewable Energy Association on Sept. 4 released the third and final installment of its Bioenergy Strategy, urging the government to commit to 16 percent of primary energy supply coming from bioenergy by 2032 or risk jeopardizing the U.K.’s energy security.

The Bioenergy Strategy is an industry-led review of bioenergy’s potential and the policies needed for it to maximize potential through 2030 and beyond. The first installment, released in March, showed that bioenergy is currently a major contributor to cutting emissions and boosting green energy jobs in the U.K. The second installment, released in June, shoed bioenergy can meet the U.K.’s projected shortfall of the 5th Carbon Budget and the impending nuclear gap.

The latest report in the series indicates bioenergy is already providing 7.4 percent of the U.K.’s primary energy supply. That contribution must more than double by 2032 if the U.K. is to address impending deficient, such as the looming nuclear gap, and meet growing electricity demand in the heat and transport sectors, according to the REA. “As well as delivering a further 117 [terawatt hours] across heat and power, sustainably doubling the deployment of bioenergy would see up to 80 million [metric tons] of CO2 removed from the atmosphere annually—more than enough to bridge the nuclear gap and meet the shortfall in the carbon budgets,” the REA said in a statement.

The report makes several key recommendations the REA said are needed to achieve the U.K.’s legally binding commitments and drive forward the industry. One recommendation focuses on introducing a replacement to the Renewable Heat Incentive that would secure a market for renewable heat technologies, including biomass boilers, anaerobic digestion and biofuels. The report also recommends an obligation on gas supplies to blend in a minimum amount of renewable natural gas (RNG), introducing the much delayed E10 bend for gasoline in the transportation sector, supporting the development of bioenergy with carbon capture use and storage (BECCUS), and ensuring a progressive increase in carbon prices across the energy economy.   

“As we move to a more flexible and decentralized 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 decarbonization of hard to treat areas like heat and transport,” said Adam Brown, author of the Bioenergy Strategy report.

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

“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,” said Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the REA.

“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,” she continued. “With 2050 targets locked into place, the government must commit to doubling current levels to reach 16 percent bioenergy by 2032 to avoid future U.K. energy security concerns.”

A full copy of the report, titled “Phase 3: Delivering the U.K.’s Bioenergy Potential,” can be downloaded from the REA’s website.