Experts call for more joined up policies to support biomass

The UK’s biomass industry is being held back by a lack of joined up agricultural and energy policies, a new report has warned.

Enabling UK Biomass by the Energy Technologies Institute claims the renewable energy process could cut the cost of meeting the UK’s 2050 carbon targets, but energy and agricultural policies need to be joined up first.

According to the report, biomass could reduce the cost of meeting the UK’s 2050 carbon targets by more than 1% of GDP helping to make low carbon energy more affordable for consumers and businesses.

But current land use and agricultural policy prioritises domestic food production, and it is often assumed that land is too scarce to allow significant planting of biomass for energy without undermining food production.

The report states one of the real challenges is to join up agricultural and energy policies to support UK farmers to grow biomass and ensure there is a sustainable and secure source of biomass.

“Many future scenarios for the UK energy system suggest that bioenergy could play a crucial role in meeting our green house gas emission reduction targets by 2050, but there are important questions around whether the UK sector can rely predominantly on imported feedstocks or if there is a significant role for domestic production too,” said Head of Economic Strategy at the ETI and report author, George Day.

“This report seeks to initiate a constructive dialogue amongst those who seek to influence, inform or make policy in this area. It sets out the case for a pro-active policy to incentivise development of a sustainable UK biomass production capability to complement imported biomass. 

“At the ETI we believe there is a strong case for joining up agricultural, land use and energy policies in ways that support domestic biomass production, both to increase land use productivity and to enable us to meet carbon targets affordably.”

Jamie Hailstone is a freelance journalist and author, specializing in local government, transport and energy issues