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2020 Analysis Of The United Kingdom biomass Energy Market

Date: 07/17/2020 08:24:18 From: Clicks:

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Now as we all know, burning fossil fuels releases carbon from geological reservoirs, which would have remained locked up for many millions of years if left untouched. So switching from fossil fuels to biomass energy seemed like an obvious way for European Union (EU) nations to meet their obligations under the Paris climate agreement (signed in 2016). Back in 2009 the EU committed itself to 20% renewable energy by 2020 and included biomass on the list of renewable-energy sources, categorizing it as “carbon neutral”. Several countries embraced bioenergy and started to subsidize the biomass industry.

2020 Analysis Of The United Kingdom biomass Energy Market
2020 Analysis Of The United Kingdom biomass Energy Market

Biomass was shown to provide a larger reduction in emissions and wholesale power prices than solar power relative to the proportion of installed capacity. Biomass accounted for approximately seven per cent of the 76.5 terawatt hours (TWh) of total electricity supplied to the UK during 4Q 2019, while other sources of power over the same period were broken down as follows:

2020 Analysis Of The United Kingdom biomass Energy Market

The United Kingdom set a new record for electricity production using biomass sources last year, according to a 4Q 2019 Electrical Insights Reports produced by researchers at Imperial College London in collaboration with UK energy giant Drax. The report also showed a decrease in electricity production from coal, down to two per cent. Reductions in overall electricity demand were observed too, with 2019 marking the first year in which the country’s electricity averaged below 200 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour.

The UK’s use of biomass for energy has significantly increased over the past decade, as the chart below shows. Home-grown supplies of plant biomass have expanded, including straw and energy crops (red wedge at the bottom of the chart). Anaerobic digestion has also grown (dark grey wedge in the middle of the chart). This involves wastes being used to produce gas in the absence of oxygen.But much of the increase has been met with imported wood pellets (dark blue wedge, “imported plant biomass”), where supplies have more than tripled.

2020 Analysis Of The United Kingdom biomass Energy Market

Bioenergy supply in the UK between 2008 and 2017, terawatt hours per year of primary energy (TWh/yr). Plant biomass includes straw, energy crops, short rotation forestry and wood pellets. Source: Figure 1.4 in Biomass in a low-carbon economy, CCC 2018, based on Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy figures.

The increase in UK bioenergy use has been driven by subsidies for renewable electricity and heat generation, including the Renewables Obligation, Contracts for Difference and the Renewable Heat Incentive. There has also been a rising obligation to blend biofuels into petrol and diesel.

The schematic below sets out a hierarchy of biomass best use in various sectors of the economy (the rows in the graphic) and along a timeline to 2050 (reading from left to right).

2020 Analysis Of The United Kingdom biomass Energy Market

Hierarchy of best use for sustainable biomass resources between now and 2050.

In simple terms, the hierarchy gives highest priority to options that do not burn biomass, such that the carbon it contains can be locked away for years. This includes wood in construction, there is significant potential to expand on the 15-28% of new homes built using timber frame construction.

The next-highest priority goes to BECCS, where biomass is burned or converted and the resulting CO2 is captured and locked away. This will only be possible with efforts to demonstrate and roll out the technology starting in the 2020s, the CCC says. It is also conditional on bringing in tighter rules on biomass sourcing, discussed in the next section below.

At the bottom of the hierarchy are existing uses of biomass to generate heat, electricity or biofuels without CCS. Ultimately, these should be phased out, it says.

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