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Knock on wood

Is biomass the answer to 2020?


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The UK faces three major energy challenges – decarbonisation, energy security and affordability. Under the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, the government has agreed to generate 15 per cent of the UK’s energy from renewable energy sources by 2020. If implemented correctly, biomass could contribute major carbon savings. Converting certain old fossil fuel power plants to run on biomass could provide reliable, affordable, low carbon energy for the UK.

Several of the UK’s fossil fuel power stations are forced to close under the EU’s Industrial Emissions Directive (IED). Most of the UK’s ageing nuclear power stations will be decommissioned in the next decade, but events like the Fukushima disaster in Japan and the continuing impact of the global financial crisis have put at risk the government’s plans for the private sector to replace them. This is against a backdrop of reduced production from the North Sea Continental Shelf and a growing reliance on imported natural gas. Biomass plants could provide reliable generation that would supply low carbon electricity even when intermittent renewable technologies like wind and solar cannot.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) estimates that around £110 billion will need to be invested in low carbon generation and network infrastructure by 2020.  The majority of this funding must be committed up front and it will take years before investments can be recovered from customers. With government spending constrained and household energy bills at an all-time high, the private sector is expected to bear the brunt of this funding in the medium term. Deloitte’s modelling indicates that converting existing power plants to run on biomass can provide attractive returns for investors, and that it can be competitive with other renewable technologies.

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