The Task Force concludes that biomass (fuel from forestry, crops and waste) could reduce the nation’s carbon emissions by almost three million tonnes a year if used to provide heating. The carbon saving would be the equivalent of taking 3.25 million cars off the road.
The Chairman of the Task Force, Sir Ben Gill, today presented the findings of the year-long study to Defra and the DTI, whose Secretaries of State jointly commissioned the report.
Sir Ben said: “What many see as tomorrow’s fuel is here today. We estimate there could be 20 million tonnes of biomass available annually. The challenge for the Government now is to unlock this vast potential. We have suggested several ways to develop this industry which has a vital role in climate change, sustainable development throughout the country and economic activity in rural areas.
“Heat has been the forgotten part of the energy debate – enough waste heat is emitted from our power stations to heat the country one and a half times over – but our findings show that producing heat either alone or in Combined Heat and Power plants is by far the most efficient way of using biomass.
“There are many renewable sources of electricity but biomass is the only widely-available source of renewable heat. Heat generation accounts for 40 per cent of our national energy consumption. At a time of rising oil prices, biomass heating is fast becoming an attractive economic option. And it is a cheaper way of cutting carbon emissions than many other options.”
The Task Force makes 42 recommendations, including a call for the introduction of capital grants to fund more biomass heating boilers and says that public buildings can be the ideal place to begin the expansion.
The report also gives examples of where biomass boilers are already operating successfully, including at Defra’s Worcester offices and at a new Cheshire school which has cut its energy consumption by more than 75 per cent.
The Task Force concludes that one of the biggest barriers to progress is ignorance and recommends that the Government acts in the next 6 months to create a single information point on biomass for the country as a whole as well as delivering on its promise in the 2003 Energy White Paper to lead by example in its own building stock.
Welcoming the report, Lord Bach, Defra’s Minister for Farming and Food, said: “I am very grateful to the Task Force for their hard work over the past year. This is a complex issue and we commissioned the report to bring a fresh independent perspective to our understanding of the potential of biomass to contribute to the Government’s renewable energy targets and farming, forestry and rural objectives.
“I am pleased to say that the Government is now establishing a cross-departmental team to work on a detailed response to the Task Force recommendations and to develop a plan for taking its work forward.”
Malcolm Wicks, Energy Minister at the Department for Trade and Industry said: “This wide-ranging report leaves us in no doubt that biomass has the potential to make a real and lasting contribution toward renewable energy and heat in the UK.
“We have already shown our commitment to biomass through the £66 million Bioenergy Capital Grants that have funded 22 projects so far and the £5 million given to support smaller-scale schemes through the Clear Skies programme.
We will now examine the recommendations that are contained in today’s report to see how we can further develop this technology for the future.”
The full report is published at: www.defra.gov.uk/farm/acu/energy/biomass-taskforce/index.htm.
Notes for editors
1. The Task Force was commissioned by Defra and the DTI in October 2004 to help Government and industry develop biomass energy in support of renewable energy targets and sustainable farming and forestry and rural objectives.
2. The members of the Task Force are Sir Ben Gill CBE (Chairman), John Roberts CBE and Nick Hartley.
3. The Task Force has asked that the Government issues a formal response to the report by June 2006.
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(Cf. news of August 05, 2005.)
Source: DEFRA pressrelease Oct. 25, 2005.