Promising Future for Bioenergy in the United Kingdom

Aug 2001

Guest Newsletter Editorial by Richard Kettle, Member for UK

Bioenergy is set to make a substantial contribution to the United Kingdom’s renewable energy targets and climate change programme. The exploitation of landfill gas received a major stimulus through the 1990s from the Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO). Landfill gas will dominate the growth in renewables required to meet the Government’s target of supplying 5% of our electricity from renewables by 2003. Energy recovery from waste is also growing in significance, driven first by escalation of the Landfill Tax and now increasingly by the demanding mandatory targets for the diversion of biodegradable waste from landfill set by the European Union’s Landfill Directive. Energy from waste is now established in the UK as part of an integrated approach to waste management – materials for which markets exist are recycled, energy is recovered from the combustible residue and the bottom ash is recycled into construction products.

Attention is also focused on agricultural and forestry residues and energy crops such as Miscanthus and short rotation coppice using willow. Poultry litter already fuels power stations in Eye, Glanford, Thetford and Fife with a total capacity of 74 MW. A similar approach is being adopted elsewhere in Europe and in North America. A 31 MW straw-fired project in Ely has been in operation since late last year. Planning permission has recently been received for a 20 MW project near Carlisle which will use pyrolysis to convert forestry residues to liquid biofuel. The EU targeted THERMIE project ARBRE is also being commissioned and will export 8 MW generated from short rotation coppice. Plans to replicate this project at a more economic scale of 30-35 MW are being actively progressed.

Although interest in bioenergy is predominately focused on the electricity market – given its higher value and greater accessibility – the heat and transport fuels markets are not being neglected. The heat market could be stimulated by plans for enhanced capital allowances to be extended to include specified renewable energy technologies. Interest in renewable transport fuels has also been stimulated by the prospect of excise duty concessions. Nevertheless the Government’s target of 10% of electricity supply from renewables by 2010, subject to the cost being acceptable, is likely to mean significant future growth in bioenergy. A combination of an obligation on all electricity suppliers to supply electricity from renewables (the Renewables Obligation), exemption from the Climate Change Levy and capital grants for qualifying bioenergy projects is expected to provide a major new stimulus to replace the NFFO. In addition, Government will continue to work with industry and academia to overcome the technical and non-technical impediments to the successful implementation of environmentally sound and competitive bioenergy projects.