Committee call for evidence on proposed Biomass one-off session

26 March 2013

Biomass  is a generic term for any organic material that can be used to produce heat, electricity or transport fuel.

In DECC’s 2011 Renewable Energy Roadmap, it is seen as a key contributor in helping the UK meet the UK’s climate change obligations. Government estimates that biomass could contribute 21% of the UK’s target of generating 15% of the UK’s energy from renewable sources by 2020. Biomass-generated electricity is set to from 1 per cent to 3.5 per cent of the Britain’s total electricity consumption by 2016. Beyond 2016, analysts have suggested biomass has the potential to continue this rapid growth rate to become a key component of Britain’s energy generation.

Biomass is considered to be economically competitive in comparison to other low-carbon technologies. According to DECC, excluding biomass from the energy mix would significantly increase the cost of decarbonising the energy mix. Biomass still requires upfront support which is provided through financial incentives such as Renewables Obligation Certificates and Feed-in Tariffs and the Renewable Heat Incentive.

There have been studies questioning the environmental impact of using biomass both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and land use. There are, therefore, risks and uncertainties associated with biomass. DECC’s Biomass Strategy identifies these as: whether it genuinely contributes to carbon reductions; the availability and price of sufficient sustainably-sourced biomass; the relationship between bio-energy and other uses of land, such as food production, and other uses of biomass, such as for construction materials; the environmental impacts on air quality, biodiversity and water resources.

Government's Bioenergy Strategy

The Government’s Bioenergy Strategy sets out four key principles:

  • Policies that support bioenergy should deliver genuine carbon reductions that help meet UK carbon emissions objectives to 2050 and beyond.
  • Support for bioenergy should make a cost effective contribution to UK carbon emission objectives in the context of overall energy goals.
  • Support for bioenergy should aim to maximise the overall benefits and minimise costs (quantifiable and non-quantifiable) across the economy.
  • At regular time intervals and when policies promote significant additional demand for bioenergy in the UK, beyond that envisaged by current use, policy makers should assess and respond to the impacts of this increased deployment on other areas, such as food security and biodiversity.

This one-off evidence session will look at the potential for biomass to contribute towards the UK’s energy policy objectives, the ability of the industry to meet the scale required and what challenges they face in doing so.
The deadline for written submissions is Tuesday 23 April 2013. 

Terms of reference

  • What contribution can biomass make towards the UK’s decarbonisation and renewable energy targets?  Are the Government’s expectations reasonable in this regard?
  • How well have the Government’s bioenergy principles (set out in the 2012 Bioenergy Strategy) been translated into policy?
    o Are genuine carbon reductions being achieved?
    o Is bioenergy making a cost effective contribution to carbon emission objectives?
    o Is support for bioenergy maximising the overall benefit to the economy?
    o Is sufficient attention being given to potential impacts in other areas, such as food security and biodiversity?
  • What challenges are there to scaling up the use of biomass in the UK (i.e. regulation, feedstocks, sustainability, supply chain and financing)?
  • To what extent will UK be able to provide its own biomass and how much is likely to be imported?
  • What factors will have to be addressed to ensure that biomass is sustainable and to what extent is it possible to assess the sustainability of imported biomass?

Notes on submission of written evidence

As part of a scheme to encourage paperless working and maximise efficiency, the Committee is piloting a new web portal for online submission of written evidence. Written submissions for this inquiry should therefore be sent via the link at the top of this page.

The deadline is Tuesday 23 April 2013. As a guideline submissions should be no longer than 3000 words, please contact the Committee staff if you wish to discuss this. If you need to send hard copy please send it to: The Clerk, Energy and Climate Change Committee, 7 Millbank, London, SW1P 3JA.
Submissions should be a Word document, in the format of a self-contained memorandum. Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference, and the document should, if possible, include an executive summary.
Submissions should be original work, not previously published or circulated elsewhere. Once submitted, your submission becomes the property of the Committee and no public use should be made of it unless you have first obtained permission from the Clerk of the Committee. Please bear in mind that Committees are not able to investigate individual cases.
The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to publish the written evidence it receives, either by printing the evidence, publishing it on the internet or by making it publicly available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure; the Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.
The personal information you supply will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purposes of attributing the evidence you submit and contacting you as necessary in connection with its processing. The Clerk of the House of Commons is the data controller for the purposes of the Act. We may also ask you to comment on the process of submitting evidence via the web portal so that we can look to make improvements. If you have any queries or concerns about the collection and use of this information or do not wish your details to be used for the purpose of collecting feedback, please advise the Committee Team at

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