The 2050 carbon emissions target is set to be very difficult to achieve without the use of bioenergy according to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). Bioenergy is the combustion of solid, liquid or gaseous fuels made from biomass feedstocks, which may or may not have undergone some form of conversion process.
It was concluded that a 10% share of bioenergy in total energy could be required to meet the UK’s target, compared to the current share of 2%. Bioenergy along with carbon capture and storage technology (CCS), would remove carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere, allowing for greater reductions to be achieved.
However the Committee stated that a share of bioenergy any higher than 10% could be unsafe due to concerns with sustainability and even at the 10% level there may be trade-offs with wider environmental, and social objectives. The Committee has stated 5 key recommendations for setting carbon budgets;
– Regulatory frameworks should be strengthened to ensure sustainability of bioenergy.
– CCS should be demonstrated as a matter of urgency. This is not just because of its potential application with fossil fuels, but because of its use with biomass, which would effectively allow the removal of carbon from the atmosphere.
– Government should regard targets on biofuels and biomass as flexible and should delay setting any new targets until the new regulatory arrangements have been put in place to ensure the sustainable supply of bioenergy.
– Subsidies should not be provided to new large-scale biomass power generation under the Renewables Obligation. Such subsidies, recently proposed by the government, would be costly and unsustainable. The focus in power generation should be on co-firing and conversion of existing coal plant and new small scale generation, using sustainable local bioenergy supplies.
– Other low carbon options should be developed, given the limited sustainable supply of bioenergy. These include energy efficiency improvements, with nuclear and wind power generation, electric vehicles (battery and hydrogen) and electric heating.