The role for bioenergy in decarbonising the UK energy system

Published: 5 November 2018

Introduction

Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) should be a core component in the UK achieving Net Zero carbon emission targets by 2050.

Delivered by Energy Systems Catapult, the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) has reviewed its 10 year bioenergy programme following the recently updated ‘Options, Choices, Actions’ report, which sets out two plausible pathways for the UK to meet its 2050 climate targets cost-effectively.

Key points

The ‘Options, Choices, Actions’ report identified bioenergy as economically important to a low carbon transition. This transition can happen without large scale bioenergy but it will be more expensive (potentially up to £200bn).

‘The role for bioenergy in decarbonising the UK energy system’ report found:

  • BECCS delivers negative emissions by using biomass to generate energy, capturing the CO2 emissions from combustion and permanently holding them in geological storage.
  • Producing electricity or hydrogen using BECCS technologies can maximise the potential percentage of CO2 that could be captured.
  • BECCS becomes increasingly important to achieve Net Zero carbon emission targets. Without negative emissions, achieving a target will require the prohibition of certain industrial activities and lifestyle choices or the reliance on imported carbon credits from other countries.
  • Potential for up to 1.4 Mha of second-generation crops to be planted without detriment to current levels of food production.
  • Constraining biomass resource availability, will increase the total cost of decarbonisation in the UK, requiring more expensive measures to be taken in other parts of the energy system.
  • Currently, the Contracts for Difference scheme is the only policy support mechanism for new biomass to power technologies. It has so far only been awarded to 1,671 MW of biomass and waste technologies, with the next auction expected to take place in May 2019.