Scaling up feedstock production

Currently, approximately one third of UK biomass is imported. As demand increases in line with policy objectives, without rising domestic production, there will be an increased reliance on imports, which presents two risks to the UK net zero strategy. Firstly, there is likely to be increasing global demand and competition for the resource, introducing cost pressures and threatening security of supply. Secondly, the current framework for greenhouse gas accounting attributes sequestration to where biomass is grown. Therefore the UK would not be the beneficiary of emission reductions, thereby threatening net zero targets.

Currently, domestic production of biomass for energy takes place on under 2.1% of agricultural land in the UK and is composed primarily of food crops. It is therefore critical that we produce more feedstock domestically. This transition will require consideration of:

  1. The environmental and social implications of land conversion required to satisfy feedstock demand in line with the UK Biomass Strategy and forthcoming Scottish bioenergy action plan.
  2. Understanding of competition for land across multiple policy objectives (eg, biodiversity and ecosystem services, food production, tree planting, greenspace and infrastructure) and the development of a balancing land use strategy.

We will engage with key government, industry and NGO stakeholders to identify priority biomass for commercial scaling, and quantify the corresponding resource and feedstock type. A land use framework that places bioenergy within the context of competing policy demands will be constructed. Policy analysis and geospatial techniques will be used to determine pragmatic, evidence-based deployment strategies that balance competing land use policy objectives and elucidate opportunities for scaling of biomass production.

This project is led by Rob Holland.