Crop biomass will play an instrumental role in the
world’s transition towards industrial decarbonisation and the phasing out of
fossil-resources. Bioenergy, and its associated technologies, has become a
popular investment for governments and industrial stakeholders, and political
agendas are aligning themselves with the development of biomass-derived
innovative methods for the production of transport fuels and the generation of
heat and power. In December 2020, the UK Government published its Energy White
Paper outlining the country’s pathway to reaching its 2050 Net-Zero target. In
this report, bioenergy is part of the overall Net-Zero innovation portfolio,
showing that biomass feedstocks are likely to benefit from a lot of support in
In the UK, the area dedicated to growing crops for bioenergy
reached a peak of around 130,000 hectares in 2016 and 2017. The latest
available statistics, dating back to 2019, show that this area has since decreased
to below 100,000 hectares (equivalent to just under 1.6% of all available
arable land in the country).
Further statistics show that 20% of this land area was dedicated to biofuel
(bioethanol and biodiesel) production, the rest being directed towards power
and heat generation.
Beyond bioenergy, there are many other applications
for crop feedstocks, beyond food and feed production. Non-food crops, when
grown in a considerate manner, can offer a wide variety of services and
products, ranging from restoring soil health to serving as raw materials for
textile manufacturing, cosmetics and medicines. Compared to fossil resources,
which are often used as raw materials for such similar products, non-food crops
provide alternative solutions which cut down on overall greenhouse gas
emissions. Non-food crops can also provide socio-economic benefits through the
establishment of local industries and the development of new markets.
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