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Knock on wood

Is biomass the answer to 2020?


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Background

The UK energy industry faces a number of challenges. These are associated with energy security, meeting the EU’s 2020 targets of generating 15 per cent of the UK’s energy from renewable sources, and affordability. The Department of Energy and Climate Change suggest that biomass could contribute 21 per cent of this overall renewable energy target. Our team have identified five key challenges that biomass developers face in reaching those 21 per cent levels - regulation, feedstock, sustainability, supply chain and financing. Biomass generation is unique among renewable energy in that its fuel needs to be purchased and therefore it can be considered economically disadvantaged compared to wind or solar where the fuel is free. However, the results of our modelling suggest that despite this, investment in conversion and co-firing provide returns that are competitive with other renewable technologies. If biomass conversion is competitive, in these days of austerity, should we be forcing coal-fired power stations to close under the EU’s Industrial Emissions Directive if converting some of them might be a cost effective way of meeting our 2020 commitments?

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