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NNFCC Briefing. Bioenergy: A sustainable solution for electricity generation in the UK

This short twelve page briefing provides insight into the implications of UK government support for using sustainable biomass in the production of electricity.

Author Dr Matthew Aylott, NNFCC
Published 11 Dec 2012
Industry Bioenergy Feedstocks
Download   NNFCC Briefing. Bioenergy: A sustainable solution for electricity generation in the UK (PDF, 463 kB)
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By the end of the decade 15 per cent of the energy supplied in the UK must come from renewable sources. Biomass is expected to play a crucial role in delivering low carbon heat, power and transportation fuel to support this goal. In fact, the UK Bioenergy Strategy – published in April 2012 – outlines how bioenergy could deliver up to 11 per cent of the UK's primary energy demand by 2020.

Furthermore, biomass will continue to play an important role in energy production until at least 2050, according to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). However, there is uncertainty as to whether bioenergy is the most appropriate technology to help deliver cost-effective and low carbon electricity.

Here NNFCC discuss the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from biomass used in the production of electricity (specifically forest thinnings and whole trees); relating these to 'carbon payback' and 'carbon debt'. The briefing also looks at the wider benefits and implications of the developing bioenergy power market, including its impact on the price of wood and jobs.

The report concludes that bioenergy does have an important role to play in delivering low-carbon, cost-effective, flexible and baseload power. Furthermore, bringing neglected woodland back into management and actively managing forests to produce both useful products and biomass for heat and power production can actually increase carbon stocks and make forests more economically productive.

However, it is important that the anticipated increase in biomass production for the electricity market is done sustainably. Industry must continue to work with government to ensure bioenergy is effective in meeting its goals, namely reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, delivering economic benefits and decreasing the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

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