Bioenergy

Bioenergy comes from renewable, organic feedstocks, which absorb carbon as they grow, and release it when they are burned to produce heat or power.  It is therefore considered to have no net carbon emissions in our scenarios and combining it with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCUS) results in negative emissions, which help achieve net zero by offsetting emissions from other sectors.

 

Key insights

Total bioenergy annual demand in 2050 
 

Bioenergy Key insights

 

Bioenergy has a critical role to play in decarbonisation because when combined with CCUS, it results in negative emissions. Without these, meeting net zero will be very challenging. In our net zero scenarios, at least 75% of bioresources are used with CCUS.

  • The UK will need either more domestic supplies or imports of sustainably certified biomass to generate the negative emissions we need to achieve net zero. Imported biomass is the largest single source of bioresources in System Transformation and Consumer Transformation (at least a third of total bioresource demand).

  • For net zero scenarios, power generation with carbon capture accounts for over half of the bioresource demand. In Consumer Transformation in 2050, 70% of bioresources are used to generate electricity generation and the associated negative emissions.

  • The maximum amount of bioresources used in 2050 is 246 TWh, in the System Transformation scenario. Here, over 85% of the bioresources are used for either power generation, hydrogen production or aviation fuels, all combined with CCUS.

  • In Leading the Way, 45% of bioresource demand is met by energy crops, which are grown in the UK. This avoids the need for importing wood pellets.

 

Where we are now

Bioenergy is already an important part of the UK's energy system. For example, the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) requires a proportion of transport fuel to come from bioenergy and over 2,000 million litres of biofuels were used in 2020. Of all the renewable electricity generated in the UK in 2019, the largest contribution came from bioenergy at 28%, more than offshore wind. Many coal-fired power plant have been converted to burn biomass and the largest of these produces 15TWh of electricity each year, enough to supply approximately four million homes. Ensuring the sustainability of biomass sources remains an important consideration.

 

What we found

Bioresources have an important role to play in all our scenarios. To reach net zero, we have prioritised its use in our modelling to be nearly always paired with carbon capture and storage (either with power generation or gasification for hydrogen) to result in the negative emissions needed to help reach overall net zero.

The energy flow diagrams here illustrate how the different bioresources are used in each scenario in 2050. They show the importance of bioenergy for power generation with CCUS in each net zero scenario, which helps provide the negative emissions needed to offset emissions from other sectors of the economy.

 

Scenario overviews - bioenergy
 

Consumer Transformation

Bioenergy is primarily used with CCUS for power generation and bio-jet fuel (90%). The remainder is for I&C and residential needs. Consumer Transformation has the second highest level of biomass imports.  

Total annual bioenergy demand in 2050: 219 TWh 

System Transformation

This scenario has the highest level of bioresource demand and the highest levels of imports. Bioenergy fulfils 44% of total energy demand in 2050.  

Total annual bioenergy demand in 2050: 246 TWh 

Leading the Way

This has the smallest increase in bioenergy demand in a net zero scenario, as greater consumer engagement helps to suppress imports.  

Almost two thirds of the demand is from power generation, which includes BECCS as well as energy from waste. 

Total annual bioenergy demand in 2050: 200 TWh 

 

Steady Progression

Total bioenergy demand in 2050 is the lowest of all scenarios.  

Almost 50% of the bioresources are being used for green gas (biomethane), which is blended with natural gas supplies to reduce the overall carbon impact.  

Total annual bioenergy demand in 2050: 142 TWh