Time to turn up the heat on decarbonisation targets

6th September 2019
Biomass Group Legislation

Richard Burrell, Chief Executive of AMP Clean Energy

Decarbonising the UK’s heat network is one of the biggest energy challenges we face. The role of bioenergy, including biomass, in helping meet net zero heat emissions, has been convincingly outlined by the Renewable Energy Association’s (REA) Bioenergy Strategy report this week.

It found that the UK could almost triple the use of bioenergy as a source of heat – from 6% to 16% by 2032 – with biomass being a major contributor. Bioenergy provides economic as well as environmental benefits with the potential to become a £20 billion a year sector within the next 13 years.

With such compelling evidence, how do we put this potential into practice? For industry’s part the biomass heat market, which is well established in the UK, is ready and able to respond to increasing demand. This needs to be supported with some bold and innovative policy measures which constrain the continued use of fossil fuels for heating and encourage the update of renewable alternatives.

Most of our heating in our buildings and industry is delivered by fossil fuels. This is predominantly natural gas except in off-gas grid areas, where the majority of households and businesses are reliant on oil and LPG. More than 1.6 million households currently rely on domestic heating oil with little prospect of being connected to the grid in the near future.

Biomass provides a readily available and easy to retrofit solution both on and off the gas grid. It has been the most successful technology under the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) at decarbonising a range of buildings. However, the biomass heat industry does require a policy framework which continues to support the provision of renewable heat. More than a year ago I called for the RHI, which ends in 2021, to be extended. Until a new policy mechanism is put in place, that need is now more pressing than ever.

We also need to restrict high carbon solutions and introduce stronger carbon pricing signals in all sectors of the energy economy. That’s why the Renewable Energy Association has recommended new measures including a ban on the installation of new oil and coal boilers by 2025.

Indeed, to achieve the UK’s emissions targets across power, heat and transport our entire energy system will need to be transformed: shifting our generation from large-scale, thermal power plants to decentralised, low carbon energy. Biomass heat should play an important part in supporting that transition.

The REA pledged at its Bioenergy Strategy launch event last week to work with Ministers to set up an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) as well as a taskforce on bioenergy. At AMP Clean Energy we are looking forward to working with Ministers across Government to help enable biomass heat to secure its rightful part in our net zero future.