The Back Biomass campaign has welcomed an independent report that recommends biomass as a cost effective way to meet UK renewable energy targets. ‘Knock on wood: is biomass the answer to 2020?’ a report published by Deloitte, suggests biomass could become an increasingly important part of the UK’s energy mix.

Paul Thompson, head of policy at the Renewable Energy Association said, “This report is extremely timely, with critical decisions to be taken by government over the next few months. Biomass power and CHP can make a strong contribution to energy security and carbon savings – and at an affordable cost. The report clearly details the role that biomass could play in meeting UK renewable energy targets and what needs to be done to ensure this potential is fulfilled.”

The UK is legally committed to sourcing 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Electricity from biomass could potentially contribute up to 21% of this. Deloitte suggests biomass could comfortably go beyond this figure through further conversions of coal fired plants, many of which are currently set for closure by the end of 2015 under EU air quality regulations.

Energy regulator Ofgem warned in October that closures may lead to an energy shortfall as early as 2015, with surplus capacity reduced to as little as four percent – down from 14% currently. Therefore, retaining existing capacity on the grid and connecting new generators will be essential to keep the lights on.

The Deloitte report comes as a number of coal fired power stations reveal plans to convert existing facilities to biomass feedstock, and plans for a number of new generators are being developed.

The report also highlights five issues that need to be resolved before biomass can achieve its true potential:

  • Regulation – the sector needs long term confidence and stability from government
  • Availability of fuel – both from domestic sources and imports
  • Sustainability credentials – to be credible, the biomass industry must avoid damaging local environments and deliver substantial greenhouse gas savings
  • Supply chain – the industry relies heavily on ports, rail freight and other import infrastructure
  • Financing – conversion projects of existing stations rely on private finance, which itself relies on a predictable public policy environment

In conclusion, Paul Thompson said, “The biomass industry has already done a lot to overcome these obstacles to growth: there is the potential for sufficient sustainably sourced biomass stock to be made available globally – the UK leads the world in setting domestic sustainability criteria; and the supply chain is gearing up for action.

“However, policy and regulatory certainty is essential in order to leverage finance for the development of new biomass projects. Back Biomass will continue to work with government to ensure these ambitions are met, enabling biomass to play a leading role in the UK’s future energy mix.”