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UK study looks at complexity of carbon debt

December 29, 2012, London, UK - A new report from consultants NNFCC discusses the complex issues surrounding the use of woody biomass for energy, including its role in supplying base load power to the grid.

December 29, 2012  By Scott Jamieson

By the end of the decade 15 per cent of the energy supplied in the UK
must come from renewable sources. Biomass is expected to play a crucial
role in delivering low carbon heat, power and transportation fuel to
support this goal. In fact, the UK Bioenergy Strategy – published in
April 2012 – outlines how bioenergy could deliver up to 11 per cent of
the UK's primary energy demand by 2020.

Furthermore, biomass will continue to play an important role in
energy production until at least 2050, according to the UK Department of
Energy and Climate Change (DECC). However, there is uncertainty as to
whether bioenergy is the most appropriate technology to help deliver
cost-effective and low carbon electricity.

Here NNFCC discuss the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from
biomass used in the production of electricity (specifically forest
thinnings and whole trees); relating these to 'carbon payback' and
'carbon debt'. The briefing also looks at the wider benefits and
implications of the developing bioenergy power market, including its
impact on the price of wood and jobs.

The report concludes that bioenergy does have an important role to
play in delivering low-carbon, cost-effective, flexible and baseload
power. Furthermore, bringing neglected woodland back into management and
actively managing forests to produce both useful products and biomass
for heat and power production can actually increase carbon stocks and
make forests more economically productive.


However, it is important that the anticipated increase in biomass
production for the electricity market is done sustainably. Industry must
continue to work with government to ensure bioenergy is effective in
meeting its goals, namely reducing our reliance on fossil fuels,
delivering economic benefits and decreasing the amount of greenhouse gas
in the atmosphere.

The full report can be downloaded here.

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