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Debate on bioenergy asks: should the UK government increase its support?

Monday, 20 May 2013 (4pm to 6pm) in University Place Lecture Theatre A (3.102). Everyone is welcome at a debate on bioenergy.

The question for panellists is: “The UK government should increase support for bioenergy. Discuss …”

Bioenergy is set to play a major role in meeting the UK’s renewable energy targets. It can deliver greenhouse gas reductions in the power, heat and transport sectors and biomass can also be used as a feedstock for renewable chemical production. Uptake is being encouraged by a range of government policy initiatives, but progress in deployment to deliver much-needed greenhouse gas reductions has been slow and the sustainability of many feedstocks has come under intense scrutiny.

This debate brings together panellists from academia, business and other stakeholders to discuss whether or not the UK should increase its support for bioenergy. There is an urgent need to increase renewable energy deployment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and many mature bioenergy technologies could contribute to that, but there has been only limited commercial success to date. So is increased policy support needed?

Unsustainable biomass production could increase greenhouse gas emissions rather than reduce them, so perhaps support should be limited or more targeted.

In addition concerns have been raised about the wider environmental, social and economic impacts of biomass production, so is UK policy exacerbating these?

There is also only a finite amount of biomass available and incentivizing one use risks there being insufficient left for other key areas. Perhaps biomass should be reserved for aviation or chemical production, where there are few alternative; perhaps it is more important to get substantial near term greenhouse gas reductions by increasing the UK’s biomass power generation capacity; or perhaps we should be focusing efforts on the longer term “prize” of negative emissions from biomass electricity with carbon capture and storage.

A range of speakers will give their perspective and there will be opportunity for questions, discussion and debate. Please come along for what promises to be a fascinating and wide ranging discussion.

The panellists will be:

  • Kevin Anderson and Patricia Thornley from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research;
  • Gerry Newton-Cross from the Energy Technologies Institute;
  • Kenneth Richter from Friends of the Earth;
  • Paul Willson from PB Power.

The debate will round off a series of events funded under the EPSRC ‘Biobridges’ project at the University, which is led by Professor Kevin Anderson.

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