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UK bioheat bodies call for a halt to ‘disjointed and scattergun approach’ to carbon reduction policy

Representatives from the UK’s biomass heat industry are calling on the government to properly think through pledges and proposals aimed at reducing the UK’s carbon emission levels after yet another announcement, this time pledging GBP160 million (≈ EUR 176.7 million) to wind generation, was made by the Prime Minister.
"Net-zero policy needs to have a workable and joined-up approach using different renewable technology options," says Neil Holland, Director of the UK Pellet Council (UKPC).

Representatives from the UK’s biomass heat industry are calling on the government to properly think through pledges and proposals aimed at reducing the UK’s carbon emission levels after yet another announcement, this time pledging GBP160 million (≈ EUR 176.7 million) to wind generation, was made by the Prime Minister.
“Net-zero policy needs to have a workable and joined-up approach using different renewable technology options,” says Director of the UK Pellet Council (UKPC) Neil Holland (photo courtesy Y Pellets).

Whilst sentiments and efforts to replace fossil fuel usage are very much welcomed across all areas by biomass leaders, urgent calls are now being made for ministers to halt the disjointed and scattergun approach to decarbonisation policy, in particular for home heating, whereby plans already put forward are largely flawed, especially for rural and off-gas grid areas.

According to the UK Pellet Council (UKPC), current proposals vastly ignore workability, housing stock, accessibility and the significant investment required to upgrade the entire UK network should electrification for home heating be favoured overall.

Whilst promising as a soundbite and seemingly preferred by officials from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the current direction of favouring air source heat pumps instead of giving consumers choice based on the property, its age, and location, is destined for failure and will cost millions in the long run.

The biomass heat industry and those working within it are 100 percent behind all efforts to reduce carbon emissions and the use of fossil fuels, and whilst using certain technologies in certain areas makes perfect sense blanket ‘one size fits all’ approach to heat decarbonisation simply will not work. The government should be looking at a complimentary, mixed-technology approach that is fit-for-purpose depending upon housing stock and location so that customers are able to specify what best suits their property and their needs. If this approach is not adopted, rural communities and more remote, off-grid areas could be the hardest hit, said Neil Holland, Director of UKPC.

Furthermore, there have been questions raised by network operators on the additional costs to upgrade networks in order to cope with new installations. Some have suggested smart meters could cut off houses using higher amounts of electricity at peak times.

For rural homeowners to switch away from fossil fuel heating like oil or LPG to electrification, the networks in these areas simply would not cope with the demand. So, for ministers to keep favouring and pushing the likes of air source heat pumps in heat decarbonisation policy when the infrastructure does not exist and the level of investment is minimal, does not make sense. Even the network operators have themselves stated that they could resort to switching household power off using smart meters if there is too much pressure on the system, Neil Holland said.

Biomass representatives have therefore welcomed the news that the BEIS Committee is to hold an inquiry into the path to future heat decarbonisation policy in November and examine the government’s Buildings and Heat Strategy.

Yes, there needs to be a rapid transition away from fossil fuels, but net-zero policy needs to have a workable and joined-up approach using different renewable technology options. Biomass, at the moment, is being restricted and vastly ignored in future strategy when for rural areas, it is proven to be the most suitable and lowest carbon option available to homes and businesses. Other countries have proven this time and time again, and are fully backing their industry with investment and incentives to aid recovery, so why aren’t we?  Neil Holland remarked.

Biomass heat is a UK-driven market, separate from that of the larger industrial power stations, that provides localised benefits and supports 700 plus supply chain companies and 46 000 bioenergy jobs.

Add to this the huge benefits for the rural economy; ie creating sustainable ‘working forests’ and new woodlands that fit with government ambitions, sustaining employment and a bioenergy supply chain of 46 000 jobs when most needed, and enabling consumers in challenging areas to easily switch to renewable energy for heating, it seems unfeasible that biomass is a very low priority. Biomass creates seven times more jobs than any other renewable technology so why isn’t the government supporting it? Neil Holland said.

The Biomass Heat Works!, delivered by the UK Pellet Council, is calling on ministers for a much more targeted, rural heat decarbonisation policy that has a collaborative approach to net-zero and brings together all elements of the industry; renewable energy solutions provided by local businesses, sustainable forestry management, domestic UK wood pellet manufacturing, rural economic growth, and jobs security at a time when most needed.

A newly installed woodchip boiler at a rural property in northern Scotland.

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