A scientific calculator has been developed that investigates the impact on carbon emissions of biomass sourced from North America to produce electricity. The calculator finds that biomass, when sourced responsibly, can be used in a low carbon and sustainable way.
The government’s Bioenergy Strategy published in 2012 made clear only bioenergy from sustainable sources should be used. In August 2013, DECC announced new biomass sustainability criteria that are amongst the toughest in the world, and we are looking to strengthen them further.
From next year, generators who are unable to comply with our sustainability criteria will lose financial support. The UK government also strongly supports work in the EU and more widely to improve international carbon accounting and management practices. Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said:
“In the short term, biomass can help us decarbonise our electricity supplies, and we are committed to supporting cost-effective, sustainably produced biomass.
“This calculator shows that, done well, biomass can offer real carbon savings – which is why we are tightening our rules for sustainable biomass. Any producer who doesn’t meet those standards will lose financial support from next year.”
The Bioenergy Emissions and Counterfactual Model, developed by DECC, can be used by developers to help make sure they are sourcing their biomass responsibly.
This is the first model published by government to take account of changes in the amount of carbon stored in forests over the lifetime of a biomass project.
In the short term, converting coal plants to biomass can play an important part in our transition to a low-carbon energy supply, and will contribute towards meeting our 2020 renewables target. By 2020 biomass could account for around 10% of the electricity generated in the UK. This is enough to meet the annual needs of around 8 million homes.
Chief Scientific Advisor at DECC, David MacKay said:
“The calculator looks at the changes in the amount of carbon stored in forests in North America when assessing the benefits and impacts of various bioenergy scenarios. It gives new information about which biomass resources are likely to have higher or lower carbon intensities, and so provides insight into a complex topic.”
Through the Bioenergy Strategy Government committed to continually updating our scientific evidence. The new tool is a valuable addition to our knowledge base that will help ensure that the biomass used in the UK is low-carbon.
The calculator and its accompanying technical report can be found on the Life cycle impacts of biomass electricity in 2020 page.