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UK survey finds strong support for bioenergy with young people

Young people in the UK are the main supporters of greenhouse emissions (GHG) reduction and believe that the Government need to do more to deliver emissions savings, according to a new survey carried out by YouGov on behalf of the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).

In addition to a "fuelled technology cap" in the CfD, solar, onshore wind and biomass conversion are still being blocked to market.

Demand has risen for more sustainable UK-grown and imported biomass to meet emissions reduction targets.

Bioenergy is one of the largest providers of renewable energy in the UK and it is the only low carbon energy source currently used to produce heat, power and transport fuels. The ETI believes that there is a continued importance in developing the bioenergy sector to deliver cost-effective emissions reductions.

The ETI’s whole energy system analysis shows that bioenergy can play a significant and valuable role as part of a balanced mix of technologies in a future long-term low carbon UK energy system, and help reduce the cost of meeting the country’s 2050 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets.

Bioenergy from biomass and waste already plays a significant role in delivering low carbon heat, power and transport fuels in the UK, and our research in this area aims to highlight the importance of developing the bioenergy sector to deliver cost-effective emissions reductions. Until recently bioenergy production has been dominated by waste feedstocks, but demand has risen for more sustainable UK-grown and imported biomass to meet emissions reduction targets. To further increase supplies of UK-grown biomass, more energy crops and forestry need to be planted, said Hannah Evans, ETI Strategy Manager for Bioenergy.

The ETI’s annual Public Perceptions of Bioenergy survey has been carried out for the past three years to develop a better understanding of public opinion towards bioenergy and the factors that influence it. Over 3 200 UK adults were questioned by YouGov to gauge public perceptions of bioenergy in the country.

77% of respondents have supported producing bioenergy from biomass across all three surveys, with 81 – 84% supporting bioenergy from waste over the same period. Levels of opposition to using biomass and waste have been consistently low at 1-3%each (figure courtesy ETI).

The latest survey found that support for using bioenergy as an energy source is at an all-time high, with 77 percent of respondents backing the use of biomass fuel and 84 percent supporting the use of waste for bioenergy production.

Alongside strong support for emissions reductions and other renewable energy sources, it is encouraging to see high levels of public support for bioenergy as a route to reducing emissions as this will influence the extent to which the sector will expand, said Evans.

The organisation has found that the ability to generate energy from waste has been consistently viewed as the most positive feature and opposition to using biomass and waste as energy sources has remained at a very low level, with only 2 percent of respondents in 2017 believing that bioenergy had no positive features.

Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) willow grown on marginal arable land.

The support for Government-led action to tackle GHG emissions has also remained consistent. This year’s findings show that 58 percent of all respondents thought that the Government should do more to reduce emissions.

It is important to maintain strong public support for bioenergy as this could influence policy-making and the willingness of farmers and foresters to produce additional biomass feedstocks. As well as raising awareness of the benefits of bioenergy, it will be important to address concerns by continuing to demonstrate the sustainability of bioenergy feedstocks, Evans said.

Key to influencing policy and driving change, 88 percent of 18 – 24-year-olds expressed that the UK as a whole should be engaged in reducing GHG emissions, with 73 percent of this age group looking to the Government to do more to reduce GHG emissions. However, respondents also said that they are more likely to trust scientists and experts, industry watchdogs and environmental interest groups to provide reliable information on the sector.

Government action should lead on tackling greenhouse emissions and developing the bioenergy sector but the public is likely to look to other sources for reliable information on the sector, suggesting it will be crucial for different groups to work together to increase awareness and understanding of bioenergy while developing the sector in the UK, ended Evans.

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