Biomass for UK energy

Biomass can be used to produce bioenergy in the form of electricity, heat, biogas or transport fuels, or to produce materials and chemicals. The Climate Change Committee recommend dedicated energy crops and forest residues as future sources of domestic biomass. This POSTnote summarises the opportunities and challenges surrounding the expansion of UK biomass production.

Biomass for UK energy

Longer duration energy storage

The UK’s energy system relies on the storage of fossil fuels to manage variations in supply and demand over varying timescales. As these are replaced to meet the net zero emissions target, new types of low-carbon, longer duration energy storage will be needed to provide secure energy supplies. This POSTnote examines different low-carbon storage technologies, their role in addressing future system needs, issues relating to scaling-up the technologies and Government strategy.

Longer duration energy storage

Nuclear energy in the UK

Nuclear electricity is a predictable and low-carbon part of the UK energy mix, currently providing 15% of the UK’s electricity. However, most existing nuclear power stations are set to close by 2030. The Government has an ambition to increase production of nuclear energy. One new nuclear power station is under construction (Hinkley Point C) and another (Sizewell C) has received planning consent. This POSTnote reviews the evidence surrounding the construction of new nuclear power stations and the ways in which nuclear might contribute to emission reduction targets.

Nuclear energy in the UK
  • POSTnote

    States’ use of cyber operations

    States are increasingly engaging in cyber operations to support their strategic aims. This POSTnote considers hostile state-backed cyber activities against the UK. It looks at how and why states use cyber operations against other nations and the threats these pose to the UK. It also considers mitigation measures, both internationally and in the UK.

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    Climate change and security

    Climate change is creating complex risks for societies, with globalisation increasing dependencies and interconnectedness between nations. This POSTnote sets out the potential security implications of climate change, arising from both its impacts on human systems and the ‘transition risks’ from climate change mitigation measures. It also describes the tools and approaches that could be used to manage the risks and opportunities arising.

  • POSTnote

    Energy consumption of ICT

    Information and Communication Technology (ICT), including data centres, communication networks and user devices, accounted for an estimated 4-6% of global electricity use in 2020. Increasing demand for ICT is expected to lead to an increase in global ICT energy use over the next decade. Experts have highlighted ongoing improvements in the energy efficiency of the technology. However, there is limited evidence on the energy use of ICT, and a significant degree of uncertainty in existing estimates. This POSTnote summarises estimates of the energy used across the ICT sector and trends that may affect it. It discusses developments in energy efficiency and issues related to energy reporting and standards.

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    Energy security

    Energy security concerns have risen over the last year. This has been brought about by high international gas and electricity prices, and the possibility of gas shortages during winter 2022, driven largely as a consequence of Russia’s war in Ukraine. This POSTnote examines the risks to the UK’s energy security, current practices for ensuring energy security, and measures that might be taken to enhance energy security as the UK transitions towards a net zero economy.

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    Green steel

    Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the iron and steel industry make up 14% of industrial emissions in the UK. Decarbonisation of the steel industry is needed if the UK is to meet its target of net zero GHG emissions by 2050. This POSTnote outlines current steelmaking processes in the UK, the technologies and measures that can be used to reduce CO2 emissions, and the supporting infrastructure and policies that could enable a ‘green steel’ industry in the UK.

  • POSTbrief

    Geothermal energy

    Geothermal energy is a source of low-carbon, homegrown, renewable energy. It is available throughout the UK and can provide heat or power all year long independent of weather conditions. It currently delivers less than 0.3% of the UK’s annual heat demand, using only a fraction of the estimated available geothermal heat resource. There is the potential to increase this proportion significantly, but this will require long-term government support to develop a route to market and overcome high upfront capital costs and geological development risks.

  • POSTbrief

    Mining and the sustainability of metals

    The mining and processing of minerals underpins modern technology and infrastructure. Each year, over 3.3 billion tonnes of metals are produced globally, and most predictions of demand show increasing consumption of metals in the coming decades, including in renewable energy generation, electric vehicles and batteries. The transition of the world’s economies and industries to more sustainable energy and technologies will require more mining and processing of non-renewable mineral resources, with associated positive and negative impacts on the environment and society.

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    International shipping and emissions

    International shipping is widely regarded as a ‘difficult-to-decarbonise’ sector. However, having been included in the UK Government’s sixth carbon budget, rapid reductions in emissions from this sector will be required to contribute to UK’s goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This POSTnote examines the options for reducing emissions from international shipping activities and outlines the regulatory landscape of the sector.

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