Fast-growing woody plants, like poplars, which are easy to plant and harvest as a woodchip coppice crop, are an alternative to fossil fuels for providing electricity and heat. If grown on marginal land impacts on food production should, in theory, be minimised. They could be used for Bioenergy, Carbon Capture and Sequestration (BECCs – PN 618), which can deliver negative emissions (activities that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere). However, this will require the relevant incentives and infrastructure to be in place. The UK Government’s ambition is that 5 MtCO2 emissions per year by 2030 are removed through engineered solutions such as BECCs, rising to 23 MtCO2 by 2035 and reaching up to 81 MtCO2 by 2050. The 2022 recent National Grid Future Energy Scenarios suggest the optimal option for generating negative emissions to 2050 in the UK will be BECCS. This POSTnote will consider the sustainability of biomass crop feedstocks grown in the UK, and the land use and other challenges that may arise.

Work on this briefing will commence in September 2022.

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Image: Biomass trees poplar & willow coppicing for renewable energy © David – #468276558

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