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Bioenergy is the "little-known leader" in British renewables – REA report

A new report by the Renewable Energy Association (REA) reveals bioenergy as a major contributor to cutting UK emissions and boosting green jobs. Biobased fuel technologies are estimated to cut 19.7 million tonnes of CO2e in 2017, replacing £21 billion (≈ EUR24.6 billion) worth of fossil fuels and supporting 46 000 jobs.
“Whilst wind and solar rightly get huge credit for their achievements, bioenergy is the little-known leader in British renewables,” said REA Chief Executive Dr Nina Skorupska.

According to the Renewable Energy Association (REA’s) economic survey of renewable energy activities (REA 2018a), there are more than 2 500 companies (right) involved in bioenergy related activities in the United Kingdom (UK). Their bioenergy related activities generated a turnover (left) which exceeded £6.5 billion (≈ EUR 7.6 billion) in 2017 (graphic courtesy REA).

According to the Renewable Energy Association (REA’s) economic survey of renewable energy activities (REA 2018a), there are more than 2 500 companies (right) involved in bioenergy related activities in the United Kingdom (UK). Their bioenergy related activities generated a turnover (left) which exceeded £6.5 billion (≈ EUR 7.6 billion) in 2017 (graphic courtesy REA).

The new report “Bioenergy Strategy: Phase 1 State of Play” is part of a wider review of bioenergy by the Renewable Energy Association (REA) and it reveals bioenergy’s role as a major contributor to cutting emissions and boosting green jobs. The report is the first installment in the REA’s Bioenergy Strategy, an industry-led review of bioenergy’s potential and the policies needed for it to maximise potential through to 2030 and beyond.

So far the UK’s been successful in cutting carbon in the electricity sector, with biomass playing its part by stabilising the renewable power supply. The progress has been astounding in the last decade, and whilst impressive, the power sector is the comparatively easy task. Next comes transport and heat, where we’ve made much less progress. Bioenergy isn’t the whole answer but it’s already been the main contributor in both those sectors. Where it goes next – and how we get there – is what we’re examining in a way that no one else has in recent times, said Dr Adam Brown, author of the Bioenergy Strategy report.

Leading renewable energy source

Bioenergy, which uses sustainable biomass and biofuels produced from wood, crops and food wastes, is already the UK’s leading source of renewable energy, meeting 7.4 percent of the country’s total energy needs. Only wind exceeds its output in the renewable power sector.

Bio-based fuel technologies are estimated to cut 19.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) in 2017, replacing GBP21 billion (≈ EUR 24.6 billion) worth of fossil fuels and supporting 46 000 jobs throughout the UK.

Whilst wind and solar rightly get huge credit for their achievements, bioenergy is the little-known leader in British renewables. Bioenergy provides something special in each of our energy sectors. It offers diverse sources of energy that fuel British transport, heat and electricity – as well as boosting British industry. That helps our energy security, cuts costs, backs up other renewables, boosts competition, supports rural economies and creates green jobs, said Dr Nina Skorupska, Chief Executive, REA.

The Committee on Climate Change projected last year that bioenergy could double as a proportion of the UK’s primary energy supply by 2050. However, promises made in 2012 by the Coalition government to renew its strategy by 2017 failed to materialise, leaving the sector to drift.

The gaps in the policy and regulatory framework are now growing, with existing support mechanisms ending, and the pipeline for future bioenergy projects being constrained.

There’s amazing, world-beating innovation already happening here. We need to think carefully about how these sectors work together to get competitive, sustainable energy from our domestic and global bio-resource. This means securing existing bioenergy markets in the UK and addressing the widening policy gap to ensure skills and supply chains are maintained to deliver future growth. That’s why the REA is taking the lead to review and secure the potential of bioenergy long into the future. I ask the government to take note as we need a clearer ambition from Ministers for this important sector. They promised to provide it, yet that’s two years overdue. Time for action concluded Dr Nina Skorupska.

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