Assessing bioenergy’s potential as an alternative to fossil fuels

The UK Government will be presented with evidence in favour of the use of bioenergy as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Professor Patricia Thornley, Director of the University’s Energy and Bioproducts Institute (EBRI) and leading bioenergy expert from Aston University, will be giving evidence to the UK Government about the use of bioenergy, specifically the use of sustainable timber, as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Bioenergy is a source of renewable energy, made from plants, wood, and other organic materials, such as household waste and manure. When bioenergy is burned, carbon dioxide is released. However, when replacing fossil fuels, this renewable energy source is able to deliver net greenhouse gas reductions, as the carbon released has previously been sequestered from the atmosphere.

Launching an inquiry into the potential of expanding UK timber production

To assist in the UK’s decarbonisation efforts, a new inquiry into the potential to scale up UK timber production is being launched by the Environmental Audit Committee. This will facilitate the creation of a sustainable and resilient home-grown timber sector which will help meet the UK’s demand for biomass.

The inquiry will also investigate the extent of UK supply chains’ contribution to deforestation overseas, how effective the government’s efforts are to prevent this, and how the UK works with international partners to tackle deforestation.

A committee hearing is being held to assess the sustainability of bioenergy

Professor Thornley is the leader of the UK’s national bioenergy research programme, SUPERGEN Bioenergy hub. She has been invited to provide evidence on the sustainability of biomass derived from forests at a committee hearing on 26 October.

© iStock/duncan1890

Professor Thornley said: “I am delighted to have been asked to speak at the inquiry.

“There are many misconceptions about biomass sustainability, and it is important that we seize the opportunities to use sustainable biomass to deliver net greenhouse gas reductions for the UK and the planet.

“That requires having the right checks and mechanisms in place and monitoring the impact of biomass deployment.

“Our research has focused on evaluating those impacts for a huge array of different biomass and technology options, so I welcome the opportunity to share our insights with the Committee.”

Ensuring that the UK’s timber industry is fit for the future

The Committee is responsible for deciding if official policy helps to protect the environment and ensuring that the UK Government is reaching its sustainability and environmental protection targets.

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said: “Forests around the world are the lungs of the planet, locking in damaging carbon and breathing out oxygen. Global deforestation is threatening this: it destroys precious biodiversity and is one of the greatest threats to warding off runaway climate change. Yet here in the UK we continue to import over 80% of timber, some of which is from nations that have damaging track records of deforestation.

“We must make sure the domestic timber industry is fit for the future and can support our net zero ambitions, while better understanding the impact any imports have on the wider world. This follows up our earlier report on the UK’s footprint on global biodiversity, where we called on the government to assess accurately the environmental impact of the UK’s consumption of key commodities.

“I invite anyone with views on global deforestation, and how UK woodland creation can contribute sustainably to meeting increasing demand in the UK timber sector, to respond to our inquiry.”

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