Bioenergy industry in the UK - Statistics & Facts

The term bioenergy refers to energy derived from burning biological matter, or “biomass”, that is available on a renewable basis. These sources include, amongst others, wood, crops, and animal materials. Its main applications are to produce heat, electricity, transportation fuels and industrial products. Biomass is considered both renewable and carbon neutral as emissions from the burning of trees and plants is balanced out by the emissions being absorbed by the replacement crops. It is also the only renewable source capable of fully replacing all areas of fossil fuel - heat, electricity and transport.

However, there has been controversy over this energy source, especially over its status as carbon neutral. Many scientists claim that the cutting down and burning of trees could in fact accelerate, rather than mitigate climate change. There are also concerns about biofuels impact on biodiversity, as rainforests are removed for palm oil plantations.

Despite these concerns, the generation of bioenergy has increased significantly in the United Kingdom. Since 1990, the generation of electricity derived from bioenergy sources has grown by more than 30 terawatts, rising to 35 terawatts in 2018. The majority of this was generated from solid biofuels and renewable waste. In the same year, the UK’s production of biofuels amounted to 11,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, with the gross inland consumption amounting to 12.46 million metric tons of oil equivalent.

The cumulative installed capacity from plant biomass reached approximately 4.7 gigawatts in 2019, having increased annually in the preceding decade. That year, the biomass and coal fired Drax power station in Yorkshire had a combined installed capacity of 2.6 gigawatts across its four biomass generating units. This was the largest capacity amongst the UK’s biomass power plants. The recent conversion of its fourth unit means that the plant is close to being coal free by 2022, ahead of the governments 2025 coal phase out deadline.

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Bioenergy in the UK

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