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.


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