About bioenergy

Bioenergy is energy generated using fuels derived from organic materials, often known as 'biomass'. Bioenergy is a very broad term and can include solids, liquids or gases used for electricity, heat or transport. Such fuels can be derived from a wide range of sources, including waste and by-products from agricultural or industrial processes. These resources can be found virtually anywhere in the world and there are many cutting-edge technologies to process them into usable fuels. This diversity, and the fact that we can grow more biomass, mean that it is a useful renewable resource. However, it is also highly complex and we need to continually study how the use of bioenergy interacts with other natural, social and economic systems to ensure that it is sustainably sourced and used effectively to everyone's benefit. For our energy systems, bioenergy can be extremely useful because it's a renewable that acts in a similar way to more traditional fuels. It can replace coal and gas for reliable power supplies; petrol and diesel to provide low-carbon solutions for cars, ships and planes; and it can offer low-carbon, renewable heating for off-grid homes and businesses. These are just some of the roles bioenergy can play. Bioenergy has huge potential in the fight against climate change. Research and trial projects are already underway to combine cutting-edge 'carbon capture and storage' (CCS) technology with bioenergy, which could lead to 'negative emissions' - removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locking it away.

The policy context of the Bioenergy Strategy

The 2012 Bioenergy Strategy was published jointly by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), Department for Transport (DfT) and Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). It set out the British Government's policy plans and ambitions for the UK's bioenergy sector. The Strategy included some important policies:

  • It recognised that trying to decarbonise the UK economy without bioenergy would cost £44billion extra;
  • It looked at available feedstocks and how best to make use of them, concluding that wood and other biomass resources could sustainably be used to reduce energy sector emissions with the right regulatory framework;
  • It estimated that biomass could provide 8-11% of the UK's primary energy suply by 2020 and 8-21% of primary energy supply by 2050.
In 2011, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC; the British Government's statutory advisor on climate change) published a Bioenergy Review that estimated bioenergy could sustinably contribute up to 10% of the UK's primary energy supply by 2050. In 2018, the CCC published a renewed Bioenergy Review that increased this upper limit to 15% of primary energy supply. In the time since the Government's Bioenergy Strategy was published, many things have changed. Technological advances have found new ways to process bio-based fuels, cut the cost of wind and solar power, store large amounts of electricity more efficiently and even capture carbon from the air. Markets have also changed, with electric vehicles, demand-side power management and cheaper renewables all proliferating as fossil fuels become more difficult to justify economically. Research and understanding have also advanced, showing us the most effective and ineffective, costly and affordable ways to incentivise low-carbon energy systems. Public policy and attitudes have also advanced, with some financial support mechanisms reaching maturity and others falling away. All of this change means that the plans of 2012 need updating. Government has not announced a plan to review the Bioenergy Strategy, so we believe the time has come for industry to do so.

About the REA

The REA is the UK trade association for renewable energy and clean technologies. Established in 2001 as a not-for-profit trade association, we represent British renewable energy producers and promoting the use of renewable energy in the UK. REA helps our members build commercially and environmentally sustainable businesses whilst promoting clean technologies and increasing the contribution of renewable energy to the UK’s electricity, heat, transport and green gas needs. Our membership also includes composters, following the merger of the Association for Organics Recycling (formerly the Composting Association) in 2013. The REA endeavours to achieve the right regulatory framework for renewables, charging infrastructure for electric vehicles and organics waste recycling to deliver an increasing contribution to the UK's electricity, heat, recycling and transport needs. What the Association covers The REA membership is active across the whole spectrum of technologies and renewable energy applications electric power, heat, CHP, transport biofuels, biomethane to grid (“green gas”), energy storage, electric vehicles and, following the merger in 2013 with AfOR, the production of compost. REA members comprise generators, project developers, fuel producers and distributors, equipment manufacturers and distributors, installers, those in organics recycling and service providers. Members range in size from major multi-nationals to sole traders. The Wood Heat Association is a subsidiary of REA, the largest renewable energy and associated clean technology industry association in the UK.

About the Bioenergy Strategy 2019

In the absence of a government-led review for the future direction of bioenergy, industry is taking the lead. Our objective is to create a clear vision and policy framework for the UK's bioenergy sector over a 10- and 30-year timeframe - i.e. to 2030 and 2050. The Bioenergy Strategy is supported by a number of key funders:

AMP Clean Energy Bioenergy Infrastructure Group
Glennmont Partners
MGT Teeside
National Farmers Union (NFU)
US Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA) Timescale The project is expected to publish in mid-2019, with a number of interim reports before a final published Strategy. Topics covered The project takes into account a wide range of factors in this complex sector, including:

  • Biomass Electricity;
  • Biomass Heat;
  • Biofuels for transport;
  • Sustainability of bioenergy supply chains and their greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Potential for largescale deployment of Bioenergy with Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (BECCUS);
  • The value of bioenergy to the energy system and the wider economy;
  • Air quality;
  • Interactions between the bioenergy sector and the wider bioeconomy.
Project Author The project's lead author is Dr Adam Brown, an energy systems analyst with over 30 years' experience in the energy sector. Dr Brown has previously held a senior role with the International Energy Agency. Dr Brown is supported by a secretariat provided by the REA, and by academic experts through the Supergen Bioenergy Hub. Contributing to the Bioenergy Strategy The Bioenergy Strategy project has a number of expert Working Groups, covering the Power, Heat, Transport and Biogas sectors, as well as individual thematic groups covering sustainability, air quality and bioenergy's interaction with the bioeconomy. We have also issued a Call for Evidence and we welcome written inputs from all stakeholders with expertise to share.