There is strong public support for producing bioenergy in the UK from both biomass and waste, with 80% of respondents in favour of bioenergy playing a bigger part in the UK’s energy mix, according to a new survey carried out for the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).
The “Public Perceptions of Bioenergy in the UK” report presents findings from a YouGov survey commissioned by the ETI. The survey of over 5,300 people found that 74% of people surveyed support producing bioenergy from biomass and 81% support producing biomass from waste.
- 80% of respondents support an increase in bioenergy use in the UK
- 74% support producing bioenergy from biomass and 81% support producing biomass from waste, comparable to levels of support seen for other renewable energy technologies
- Results suggest that the public would be comfortable with a mix of imported and domestic biomass feedstocks, provided imports are used in addition to, not instead of, domestic resources
- The Government is seen as the most popular choice to lead the development of the UK bioenergy sector
Generating energy from waste and being a renewable source of energy were seen as the most positive features of bioenergy. Over a third (38%) of respondents were concerned about biomass competing with other land uses such as food production, but previously published ETI case studies have shown that they can complement each other. Overall, the survey results suggest that the public would be comfortable with a mix of imported and domestic biomass feedstocks, provided imports are used in addition to, not instead of, domestic resources.
The Government was seen as the most popular choice to lead the development of the UK bioenergy sector. However respondents also valued the role of scientists/academics, environmental groups and consumer/industry watchdogs as reliable sources of information about bioenergy.
Hannah Evans, ETI Bioenergy Strategy Analyst said:
“Delivering bioenergy on a large scale will be dependent on levels of public support, not just in terms of ensuring new bioenergy generation facilities can obtain planning permission, but also in determining the number of farmers and foresters prepared to plant new bioenergy crops, and whether or not individuals are willing to install biomass boilers in their homes or workplaces.
"It is encouraging to see that levels of support for bioenergy compare favourably with other renewable energy technologies and the public associate bioenergy with a wide range of positive features, particularly the fact that it can be generated from waste materials and that it is seen as a renewable source of energy that can reduce the UK’s dependence on fossil fuels.
"There were concerns that biomass feedstocks could compete with other land uses, such as food production, which is why it is important to demonstrate that biomass feedstocks can be planted successfully on otherwise economically marginal land, and when sited considerately, can complement, rather than compete with, food production. We have recently published case studies of three English farms that demonstrated that planting energy crops can increase the profitability of agricultural land.
"Building a UK bioenergy sector with continued public support will need greater support for domestic production and increased awareness of the benefits it can bring.
"The UK Government is the most popular choice to lead the development of the bioenergy sector. However, the public also value the role of scientists, academics, environmental groups and consumer/industry watchdogs, as reliable, trustworthy sources of information. This presents an opportunity for different organisations to work together to increase awareness and understanding of bioenergy, in parallel to developing the bioenergy sector in the UK.”
Bioenergy can play a significant and valuable role in the future UK energy system, helping reduce the cost of meeting the UK’s 2050 greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets by more than 1% of gross domestic product (GDP).
The ETI recently published a report “The Evidence for Deploying Bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) in the UK” which highlighted the importance of combining bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (CCS) if the UK is to meet its 2050 greenhouse gas emission reduction targets cost-effectively.
Analysis using the ETI’s internationally peer-reviewed Energy System Modelling Environment (ESME) – a national energy system and design planning capability – indicates that BECCS could deliver net negative emissions (the removal of carbon from the atmosphere) of approximately 55Mt CO2 per year in the 2050s. This is roughly equivalent to half the UK’s emissions target in 2050 and reduces the need for more expensive decarbonisation measures in other sectors such as aviation and shipping.
In the absence of CCS, bioenergy is still a cost-effective means of decarbonisation and should play an important role in meeting the UK’s 2050 emissions targets.
The ETI has delivered a number of projects to build an evidence base to assess the sustainability of land use change to biomass production in the UK, develop modelling tools to identify optimal bioenergy value chains for the UK and develop low carbon energy technologies that deliver carbon savings, and which could be maximised if combined with CCS.
Further details on all those projects are at http://www.eti.co.uk/programmes/bioenergy
More information on the results of the YouGov survey, including the “Public Perceptions of Bioenergy in the UK” report can be found at www.eti.co.uk/insights/public-perceptions-of-bioenergy-in-the-uk
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 5307 GB adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 7th - 12th September 2016.
About the ETI
The ETI is a public-private partnership between global energy and engineering companies – BP, Caterpillar, EDF, Rolls-Royce and Shell – and the UK Government.
The role of the ETI is to act as a conduit between academia, industry and the government to accelerate the development of low carbon technologies. We bring together engineering projects that develop affordable, secure and sustainable technologies to help the UK address its long term emissions reductions targets as well as delivering nearer term benefits. We make targeted commercial investments in nine technology programmes across heat, power, transport and the infrastructure that links them.