This month saw the long-awaited publication of the UK governments’ latest biomass strategy.

The strategy is the first for many years, and sets out the role which government see biomass playing in the UK energy mix over the short, medium and long term.  It covers a wide range of biomass types and conversion pathways, including liquids, solids and gasses, as well as the use of biomass for biochar production and hydrogen, alongside the role of BECCS – Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage, but good old fashioned woodfuels from forest and woodland management also get a look in.

Our top takeaways are:

  • An important role is seen for forests and woodlands to provide biomass to a wide range of existing and emerging markets, and increasing woodland cover through traditional forestry as well as planting SRC and SRF are highlighted in the strategy as key actions to support, with ambitious targets set for 2050;
  • Increasing the sustainable management of our existing woodland resource to provide chips and pellets for UK markets is highlighted as having the potential to make an important contribution, and the strategy highlights the estimated 1m (oven dried) tonnes that are potentially available each year from currently undermanaged woodlands;
  • The strategy recognises the strength of the UK’s regulatory environment when it comes to ensuring forests are well managed, and that the use of forest products in biomass markets is appropriately monitored to ensure their sustainability;
  • There is a lot of mention of the use of forest products in BECCS applications, which is where the carbon dioxide produced by the combustion or conversion of wood into another product, such as a gas or liquid fuel, is then captured and stored, leading to a net removal of carbon from the atmosphere.  This is a technology which is currently in its infancy, and only makes economic sense at scale at present, but is an interesting potential direction of travel for markets;
  • Whilst it was acknowledged that Government are already and will continue to take action on reducing emissions from domestic markets and wood burning stoves, they are not considering a ban on domestic burning in England

A strategy document is not necessarily policy, but rather sets a framework in which policy can be developed and then implemented through actions, support schemes and regulations. It’s clear that government – along with lots of private sector organisations – have got their eyes on the products of our forests and woodlands as key ingredients in a low carbon future, which we think can only be a positive.

If you want to read more, follow this link to the strategy document, but be warned, it’s 204 pages, so you’ll need more than a cup of tea and a biscuit to make it to the end!