UK biomass crops ‘could boost low carbon transition’

UK-grown biomass crops could make a significant contribution to a cost effective, low carbon energy system by 2050. That’s according to a new report from the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), […]

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By Jonny Bairstow

UK-grown biomass crops could make a significant contribution to a cost effective, low carbon energy system by 2050.

That’s according to a new report from the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), which suggests the country will need to plant 1.4 million hectares of bioenergy crops such as Miscanthus, Short Rotation Coppice willow and Short Rotation Forestry to boost its transition to a low carbon economy.

This volume of crops would take up around 7.5% of the agricultural real estate across the nation – the group suggests support for farmers should be restructured to encourage the industry to head in this sustainable direction, which could initially mean dealing with additional costs.

It says starting to grow these crops now and increasing their volume year-on-year would allow farmers to gradually develop their expertise, learn best practice and monitor the impact their crops are having on the local environment and the larger energy sector.

Until recently, the biomass sector in the UK has been dominated by waste feedstocks. However, as demand for clean energy continues to grow, the ETI believes supply will need to be bolstered by planting bioenergy crops.

Hannah Evans, the ETI’s Bioenergy Strategy Manager said: “As the UK prepares to leave the EU, there is an opportunity to restructure farming support in a way which provides long-term clarity and support to farmers and encourages the sustainable growth of the UK biomass sector.

“This could place a value on the wider environmental benefits growing second generation energy crops can make to the farming landscape, reducing the risk to farmers by providing a degree of income security.”

The US Department of Energy (DoE) has announced it will spend $40 million (£30.9m) on advancing four Bioenergy Research Centres (BRCs).