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UK Climate Change Committee recommends expanding domestic biomass production

The UK parliament has released a research briefing analysing the country’s current position on, and outlook for, the use of biomass.
It stated that the Climate Change Committee (CCC) expects demand for biomass in the UK to rise significantly in the coming decades, as a means to supply bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).
It also expects demand to increase from other industries requiring biomass, such as aviation in fuels. Meeting this increased demand will require an expansion in domestic production to avoid increasing imports, the report found, and sufficient land will be required for cultivation.
Whilst dedicated energy crops have the potential to make a strong contribution to domestic biomass supply, the expansion of UK biomass production encounters social, economic and technical challenges. According to the report, stakeholders have said that current policy frameworks fail to provide sufficient long-term certainty to provide confidence for potential energy crop growers.
The government’s upcoming Biomass Strategy will discuss how biomass use can best contribute towards net zero across multiple economic sectors. Originally scheduled to be published in 2022, it is now expected this year, the report said.
Bioenergy is currently the second largest source of renewable energy in the UK, generating 12.9% of the total UK electricity supply in 2021. Bioenergy could deliver negative emissions when combined with BECCS, assisting the UK in achieving its legal commitment to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The expansion of BECCS would require additional CCS infrastructure and the sufficient supply of biomass feedstocks. Presently, approximately one third of UK biomass feedstocks are imported. Wood pellets from North America are the country’s dominant feedstock for use in electricity in generation.
The report added that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) have raised sustainability concerns about biomass imports. The UK could face increasing competition for biomass as global demand rises. The CCC recommended dedicated energy crops and forest residues as future sources of domestic biomass, although it is acknowledged that imports will continue to play a role.

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