UK failing to harness bioenergy potential

Feb 19, 2014

The UK could generate almost half its energy needs from biomass sources, including household waste, agricultural residues and home-grown biofuels by 2050, new research suggests.

Scientists from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at The University of Manchester found that the UK could produce up to 44% of its by these means without the need to import.

The study, published in Energy Policy Journal , highlights the country's potential abundance of that are currently underutilised and totally overlooked by the bioenergy sector. Instead, say the authors, much of the UK bioenergy sector is heading towards increased reliance on resources that will have to be imported from abroad.

Study author Andrew Welfle said: "The UK has legally binding renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction targets, and energy from biomass is anticipated to make major contributions to these. The widely discussed barriers for energy from biomass include the competition for land that may otherwise be used to grow food and the narrative that biomass will have to be imported to the UK if we want to use increased levels of bioenergy. But our research has found that the UK could produce large levels of energy from biomass without importing resources or negatively impacting the UK's ability to feed itself."

The research involved analysing the UK's biomass supply chains and investigating how different pathways that the UK could take may influence the potential bioenergy that the country could generate from its own resources up to 2050.

The pathways the team analysed included a future with economic focus, investigating how the future UK bioenergy sector may look if economic growth was the prime focus; a conservation focus pathway, where the conservation of resources is the key future aim; an energy focus pathway, where the UK pushes towards achieving the maximum practical levels of bioenergy generated from its resources; and a food focus pathway, where the potential future of the country's bioenergy sector is analysed in reflection of the UK working to increase its food security.

"Biomass residue resources from ongoing UK activities, such as agriculture, forestry and industrial processes, were found to represent a continuous and robust resource option for the UK bioenergy sector, potentially contributing up to 6.5% of primary energy demand by 2050," said Mr Welfle. "The potential bioenergy generated from agricultural residues, particularly from straws and slurry resources, being the highlight opportunities for the bioenergy sector due to their high abundance and current underutilisation.

"UK waste resources were also found to represent a potential major opportunity for the bioenergy sector. The research highlights that both household and food/plant waste streams represent particular potential for the sector. Although the design and influence of future strategies and policies on UK waste generation and management are fundamental in determining the extent of opportunities that wastes represents to the UK bioenergy sector.

He added: "Biomass is a flexible energy option, in that it can be used to produce heat, electricity or even be converted to transport fuels, although different types of biomass resource tend to be utilised in specific ways in order to produce the most energy or biomass-based products with increased value. Our research confirms that the best option for the UK to make the most of its biomass resources would be for selected resources to be used by bio-refineries to produce high value bio-products, with all remaining suitable resources being dedicated for heat generation."

Explore further: Research shows how householders could stay warm for less simply by storing heat better

More information: Andrew Welfle, Paul Gilbert, Patricia Thornley, "Securing a bioenergy future without imports," Energy Policy, Available online 31 January 2014, ISSN 0301-4215, dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2013.11.079.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers explore bioenergy utilization in China

Jul 03, 2012

With China the largest growing economy in the world, scientists and policymakers alike are keenly interested in the country's increasing use of biomass – instead of polluting and climate-harming fossil fuels – for ...

Report suggests biomass energy won't harm food production

Dec 02, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Biomass could cover 20% of the global energy supply without harming production of food, a new report released in the United Kingdom says. Reviewing over 90 international studies, the report was produced by ...

Miscanthus adapts

Jun 06, 2011

An article in the current issue of Global Change Biology Bioenergy finds that natural populations of Miscanthus are promising candidates as second-generation energy sources because they have genetic variation that may in ...

New crops show potential for sustainable biomass

Apr 27, 2011

A new source of biomass grown on unused land could help the UK meet renewable energy targets without affecting food production or the environment, according to the results of a new study.

Recommended for you

Are electric cars greener? Depends on where you live

8 hours ago

Long thought a thing of the future, electric cars are becoming mainstream. Sales in the United States of plug-in, electric vehicles nearly doubled last year. Credible forecasts see the number rising within ...

Building a better battery

10 hours ago

Imagine an electric car with the range of a Tesla Model S - 265 miles - but at one-fifth the $70,000 price of the luxury sedan. Or a battery able to provide many times more energy than today's technology ...

Researchers find way to turn sawdust into gasoline

14 hours ago

Researchers at KU Leuven's Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis have successfully converted sawdust into building blocks for gasoline. Using a new chemical process, they were able to convert the cellulose ...

Nanodot team aims to charge phones in less than a minute

18 hours ago

The world of smartphone users, which is a very large base indeed, is ripe for better battery solutions and an Israel-based company has an attractive solution in store, in the form of nanodot batteries that ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.