On August 10, 2023, the UK government finally unveiled its Biomass Strategy after months of anticipation.
Although the strategy was met with a warm welcome from industry leaders, it has also generated concerns that it might not go far enough in enabling the sustainable and effective use of biomass resources.
This article takes a closer look at the key points of the strategy, its implications, and the industry’s response.
The Strategy at a Glance
Long-Term Vision and Priority Areas
In a nutshell, the government aims to utilise biomass where it offers the most significant environmental, economic, and social benefits.
The strategy underlines the use of biomass in hard-to-decarbonise sectors as a priority.
Moreover, the strategy categorises its approach into short, medium, and long-term goals, emphasising sustainable deployment and transitions towards innovative solutions like Bioenergy with Carbon Capture Storage (BECCS).
Domestic vs. International Supply
Currently, 66% of biomass used in the UK for renewable energy generation comes from domestic sources.
The strategy admits the complexities and uncertainties associated with biomass supply but reaffirms the government’s commitment to secure sufficient supply domestically or internationally.
One of the strategy’s key commitments is to develop a cross-sectoral common sustainability framework, which will be subject to further consultation.
What Does the Industry Think?
Seven leading energy trade bodies sent a joint letter to Minister Graham Stuart, largely welcoming the new Biomass Strategy.
They praised the government for its evidence-based approach and its focus on creating a common sustainability framework.
Call for Urgency
Despite the initial praise, the industry also expressed the urgent need for the strategy to go further.
Critics argue that the strategy lacks detailed plans, especially concerning BECCS and the need for ‘negative emissions’.
Notable Gaps and Concerns
- Lack of Concrete Policies: Critics note that the strategy reaffirms existing commitments but lacks new policy directions.
- Scale of BECCS: There are concerns about the readiness level of BECCS technology and how it can be scaled to meet the UK’s climate goals.
- Holistic Approach Needed: The strategy could benefit from addressing the entire biomass value chain, from sustainable cultivation to end-use, to ensure maximum environmental benefit.
- Energy from Waste (EfW): Although EfW plays a role in the strategy, more clarity is required on how it fits into the larger biomass and renewable energy landscape.
- Low Carbon Transport Fuels: The strategy mentions the importance of biofuels in sectors like aviation and maritime but lacks a focused plan.
The UK’s Biomass Strategy is an essential step in articulating the role of biomass in the nation’s path to net-zero emissions.
However, the industry and other stakeholders argue that the government needs to provide more specific and actionable plans for this to become a reality.
The need for speed is crucial – as the industry points out, further delays could leave the UK without essential tools for combating climate change.