The potential unintended consequences of scaling up biomass energy carbon capture and storage (BECCS} in the UK and assesses the extent to which the technologies could deliver true and sustainable decarbonisation to the energy sector.
BECCS has received a swathe of Government support and media coverage in recent times, both in the build-up to the ratification of the UK's 2050 net-zero goal, and after its implementation. Supporters of the technologies point out that biomass, unlike gas or other fossil fuels, is renewable, and that it is produces less emissions when burned. If these emissions can be captured for storage and reuse, the process can become carbon neutral or even carbon negative, firms including Drax have claimed.
The report, however, warns that BECCS is "no silver bullet" for a net-zero energy sector. It claims that there has not been enough research into the likely energy output of BECCS or the environmental impacts of scaling up biomass supply chains, making it difficult to determine whether BECCS systems can be carbon-neutral across the life cycle.
According to the report, deployment of BECCS at the scales assumed by the UK's modelling, on a global scale, would consume land equivalent to that currently accounted for by cropland. This could pose problems for food security, result in biodiversity loss and hamper plans to re-assess land-use in line with net-zero, Chatham House concludes. Chatham House claims that failures to account for biomass supply chain emissions undermine the assumption that BECCS systems are inherently carbon-neutral and is accordingly calling for stricter sustainability requirements for biomass feedstock and urging the Government to prioritise decarbonisation across carbon-intensive sectors, reshape its land-use strategies to ensure BECCS decisions are made after full considerations of all alternatives, both technology-based and nature-based.
Download the report HERE. (Source: Chatham House, edie news, February 2020)
Contact: Chatham House, Royal Institute of International Affairs, +44 (0) 20 7957 5710, email@example.com, www.chathamhouse.org
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