UK Biomass Strategy looks to reduce wood pellet reliance

While welcomed by several energy trade associations, Downing Street is now being called upon to urgently enable effective bioenergy carbon capture and storage. Meanwhile, critics argue policy will lead to more destruction of critical forests. 

brown wooden logs on green grass during daytime

Running to 204 pages, the expansive document outlines the short and mid-term future of the biomass energy sector. This includes improved standards for making the industry greener. 

Key points include the announcement that no new funding will be given to the sector without matching carbon capture and storage projects. Sustainability criterial for biomass across heat, power, and transport will become uniform, while the supply of raw materials will – it is hoped – diversify, bringing agricultural residues and energy crops into the mix. It is not clear where this will come from.

‘This is a comprehensive and considered biomass strategy that, rightly, places sustainability at the heart of UK bioenergy development. The challenge is now to produce actions that can deliver the sustainable system of biomass required to achieve net zero,’ said Professor Patricia Thornley, head of the Supergen Bioenergy Hub, led by Aston University. 

Signs that wood pellets are becoming an unfavourable fuel choice are hardly surprising. While rightly considered sustainable in the true definition of the term – the fuel source, trees, replenish and restock themselves – this has led what many argue is tantamount to greenwashing, as burning such materials for energy has a significant carbon output. The fuel also requires widespread logging and deforestation.

No plans to reduce reliance on imported wood pellets were included in the policy outline, raising concerns about Westminster’s new approach to energy fuelling habitat destruction in North America and Europe, where most of the timber supplies come from. The Strategy also acknowledges  that the Government’s own modelling suggests around 50% of the country’s biomass demand will be fulfilled by 2050, making incorporating large-scale bioenergy within net zero roadmaps particularly risky. Not least considering biomass carbon capture and storage (BECCS) has been accused of paving the way for continued emissions, and using nascent, sometimes unproven technology. 

More on bioenergy:

UK Government faces renewed green biomass furore

UK commitment to bio energy carbon capture is misguided


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