Biomass Strategy: Public perception
The UK Government has published its Biomass Strategy, outlining their view on the role biomass will play in supporting the UK’s transition to net zero and how this will be achieved.
We worked closely with teams from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and other government departments to provide scientific evidence, context and insight to inform the strategy.
The information below provides context to the Biomass Strategy along with comment from lead academics in the Supergen Bioenergy Hub.
Public perception and engagement
The transition to a low-carbon future requires a significant change within our political, societal and economic systems. It’s not just about a change of technical processes but also requires, and leads to, social, environmental and economic change. Bioenergy is unique in renewable energy as it is fundamentally linked to the natural environment, agricultural, forestry and food systems, and so also to the livelihoods of people beyond energy supply, demand and affordability. It is therefore essential to consider public opinion when developing policy for bioenergy systems.
As part of the development of the Biomass Strategy, the government led a public dialogue exercise to examine public sentiment in relation to biomass and related issues. The Advisory Group overseeing this work was chaired by Dr Mirjam Rӧder from Aston University, leader of the Systems Topic Group within the Supergen Bioenergy Hub. The report from this project has been published alongside the Biomass Strategy, and the lessons learned have had a clear influence on it, particularly on the key issues of ensuring trust and transparency in the information available to the public. It is these principles of trust and transparency that lead the research within the Supergen Bioenergy Hub, and we are pleased to see this reflected in the strategy.
The Biomass Public Dialogue Project showed that the public focus is on two topics: affordable, reliable and clean energy provision and transparent information on technologies, business models and wealth creation. The project demonstrated that by providing information transparently, we can grow public confidence in bioenergy technologies and related sectors such as biomass supply and carbon capture and storage.
Research by the Supergen Bioenergy Hub has shown that designing bioenergy projects and related business models together with communities and stakeholders leads to higher acceptance and engagement. Bioenergy offers the unique opportunity for community participation and empowerment at various stages of the value chain from biomass production to the provision of services beyond just low-carbon energy. Bioenergy offers opportunities for stakeholders and communities outside the traditional energy sector to engage and benefit from improved energy access, participation, decision-making and wealth. Additionally, providing transparent information that clearly demonstrates system trade-offs, including challenges and benefits beyond energy provision, increases public acceptance.
Biomass is expected to play an important role in transitioning to net zero. Uncertainty of public opinion on bioenergy presents a challenge for decision-making. The public engagement around the Biomass Strategy showed that there is controversy in public debate. The polarised perspectives in the public debate on biomass and bioenergy allow stakeholders to assert themselves as experts on the topic and to make claims that further their interests to influence policy development. To ensure the public debate is not driven by singular interest, we need to provide transparent and independent evidence to empower public opinion and decision-making.
Lead Author: Mirjam Röder, Associate Professorial Research Fellow at Aston University and Lead on Systems Topic Group at the Supergen Bioenergy Hub. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 0121 204 3643 (Unavailable until 31 August)
Dan Taylor, Postgraduate Research Student, Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute, Aston University
Joanna Sparks, Biomass Policy Fellow, Supergen Bioenergy Hub
Supergen Bioenergy Hub: email@example.com