I would like to assure you that the Government continues to recognise climate change as one of the most serious long-term threats that this country and the world face.
Sustainable, low carbon bioenergy has helped the UK move to a low-carbon energy mix, increase our energy security and keep costs down for consumers. I understand that the Government sees the use of biomass as a transitional technology and has announced that support for all coal to biomass conversions will end in 2027.
The UK only supports biomass for electricity generation which complies with strict sustainability criteria, and I understand that generating stations utilising biomass only receive subsidies in respect of compliant biomass. These criteria take into account social, economic and environmental issues including protecting biodiversity and ecosystems, land use rights, sustainable harvesting and regeneration rates. The criteria also ensure that the carbon stock of the forest from which the pellets are derived is not decreased by requiring that biomass fuels are derived from forest waste wood and residues and that the forest owner adheres to relevant legal requirements to protect biodiversity and the environment.
Therefore, only biomass from sustainable sources should be used in the UK. Under biomass sustainability criteria, bioenergy suppliers must report on the sustainability of their operations if they want to claim subsidy support under the Renewables Obligation, Contracts for Difference (CfD), or the Renewable Heat Incentive. These criteria are amongst the toughest in the world and any generators that do not comply lose this financial support. This also includes a minimum 60 per cent lifecycle greenhouse gas saving and for the biomass to be from a sustainable source.
The Government consulted on the inclusion of biomass and set out its intention to remove biomass conversion technologies from the CfD scheme. The Government's response to the consultation confirmed that the Government plans to exclude new coal-to-biomass conversions from future CfD allocation rounds. I understand a new cross-government Biomass Strategy, which is to be published before the new year will look at how biomass should be sourced and used across the economy to best contribute to the UK's net zero target. This will set out the Government’s view on the role of biomass in the energy sector and provide further clarity to the market. The fourth round of the CfD scheme has now closed as of July with £285 million of yearly funding for low-carbon technology which aims to secure 12GW of electricity capacity.
The UK has already made excellent progress and is setting an example to the rest of the world. Indeed, between 1990 and 2019 the UK economy has grown by nearly 80 per cent while cutting emissions by 45 per cent.
The Government recognises that biofuels such as hydrotreated vegetable oil biodiesel may play a role in future off-gas-grid decarbonisation, particularly for properties that are not suitable for a heat pump. However, further evidence is needed to consider what role these biofuels could play and to develop the policy framework which would support such a role.
That is why I welcome that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published a Call for Evidence to inform the development of the Biomass Strategy. The feedback of this is currently being analysed. The Biomass Strategy will review the amount of sustainable biomass available to the UK, including liquid biofuels, and how this could be best used across the economy to achieve the UK's net zero target. It will also assess the UK’s current biomass sustainability standards, which are some of the most stringent in the world, to see where and how improvements can be made.
US air quality regulatory bodies have established robust processes for ensuring air quality requirements are adhered to. UK Government officials have discussed air quality with US counterparts and continue to liaise with them to ensure the government continues to have the most up-to-date information.
The forthcoming Biomass Strategy will review the amount of sustainable biomass available to the UK and how this resource could be best utilised across the economy to help achieve our net zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050 while also supporting the delivery of our wider environmental targets.
The UK government recognises that it is vital to ensure any negative impacts on the environment, including on air quality, from the use of biomass are fully understood and mitigated. The Government only supports biomass which complies with our strict sustainability criteria, and with carbon capture and storage, it can permanently remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Generators must demonstrate to the regulator that they meet the criteria, and their evidence is independently audited.