Memorandum by British BioGen
As a renewable carbon fuel, biomass, unlike
other types of renewable energy, can be moved around and stored
and may be commercially processed into a range of fuel products,
including wood chip, pellets, bio-oil, biogas, methanol, ethanol
and potentially hydrogen (for fuel cells) or even A-1 Jet Fuel.
This makes bioenergy complementary to other, intermittent renewables
and gives it a central role in an integrated and diverse renewable
energy supply system. Bioenergy can be located where it is needed,
fitting into the existing electricity distribution network. Bioenergy
can generate as and when required with a high degree of reliability,
which is particularly important under the new electricity trading
arrangements. The scale potential of the biomass resource means
that bioenergy can make a significant contribution to UK energy
supply across all those markets currently served by fossil fuelselectricity,
combined heat and power, industrial and domestic heat and transport
fuelutilising home-grown sources.
Bioenergy projects are relatively small-scale,
usually supplying electricity to distribution networks, below
the regional connection to the national grid, as embedded generation.
As well as limiting the cost and environmental impact of fuel
transportation, generating locally has significant advantages
in avoiding energy losses in long transmission lines and in reducing
or avoiding the costs of reinforcing or upgrading electricity
distribution systems. Smaller scale plants in a dispersed system
also make less opportune targets for attack and disruption is
more easily contained.
The resource is substantial and comes in many
forms; co-products from food production alone such as straw, waste
vegetables and processing bi-products (starches and fibres) amount
to nearly 30 million tonnes. Our timber industry harvests 10 million
tonnes annually producing over five million tonnes of co-products.
These resources are particularly suitable for electricity generation
and bio-ethanol production. There is a real interest from oil
and car companies to utilise bio-ethanol as a blending ingredient
for petrol for largely environmental reasons. To place this resource
potential into contextfour million tonnes of biomass could
today replace 10 per cent of total UK petrol demand with no modifications
to distribution infrastructure or cars.
Furthermore, a considerable amount of biomass
enters the so-called waste streamwhether from household
food waste or from garden/arboricultural arisings. Current estimates
of this resource are in the range 20-30 million tonnes annually.
Again, this resource can be used for transport fuel or for electricity/heat
Historically agriculture and forestry provided
most of our energy and as fossil resources become more difficult
to access they will again have to rise to the challenge. The total
UK farmed area is 18 million Ha with wheat production the most
important crop, utilising about two million Ha from which we also
get 12 million tonnes of straw co-product. As well as the co-products
dedicated energy crops have substantial potential, discussions
with the CLA and the NFU suggests that an estimate of land potential
for energy cropping of between 25-30 per cent by 2020 is appropriate
and probably conservative. If we take as a working assumption
that five million Ha of agricultural land will be available for
this purpose (this figure also consistent with ETSU estimates)
this could produce nearly 200 Twh of electricity or more than
50 per cent of current consumption.
The industry is in its formative stages but
growing fastit is already the most important renewable
in the UK energy mix with biomass heating competitive with most
fossil fuels. The conversion technologies are developing fast
and range through combustion, gasification, pyrolysis and various
novel bio-processing methods.
To summarise, bioenergy is indigenous, renewable
and can replace all the current energy functions performed by
external fossil sources. Its realisation is small scale and dispersedand
being fuel based, predictable. It can work in combination with
other fossil fuels including petrol, diesel, coal and gas.
The bioenergy industry is poised to engage with
the UK energy market in a significant way. This contribution could
be considerably increased with a modest shift in land use and
the reclassification of all the substantial biomass streams entering
the UK economy as biofuel resources instead of wastes, thus realising
the substantial potential of bioenergy to provide a variety of
secure fuels with the added benefit of reduced greenhouse gas
emissions. There is a major opportunity for Government to engage
in the reform of UK and European agriculture and to create a self-sustaining
rural economy, containing the drift to external sources of carbon
The creation of a renewable fuels resource base
will have a positive effect on UK emissions and reduce external
dependency. Market entry barriers are however formidable. These
can emanate from the dominance of scale such as the transportation
fuel markets or structural as is the case of electricity generation
where the value of local generation is not recognised by the market.
There is a clear need for Government intervention to assist industry
in its early development.
Required Policy Responses
Government to recognise that bioenergy
is a big idea, which requires a co-ordinated policy with
the attention of a political champion and an overall direction
and co-ordination of policy across all relevant ministries to
ensure that resource development and market development go hand
Market stimulation initiatives are
required in the heat, electricity generation and transportation
the ongoing structural reform of
the electricity generation market needs to increase the value
of embedded generation.
The barriers to the accessibility
and productive utilisation of biomass resource streams from the
so-called "waste sector" need to be removed;
re-orientate policy to focus on resource
productivity as a key driver.
to place bioenergy at the centre
of CAP reform and conceptualise it as part of the solution to
the Government's objective of a more robust and less subsidy-driven
This is the biggest barrier to renewables development
generally. This issue will have to be confronted both in terms
of fundamental structural reform of the planning system and positive
advice and promotion of renewables contribution to a "living
working countryside" which is delivering environmental benefits
and energy security to be enjoyed by all.