Sustainable Bioenergy Will Assist the UK Towards a Low Carbon Economy

Research from the University of Southampton has been an instrumental part in a new report outlining the significance of bioenergy in assisting the UK towards a low carbon economy. Sponsored by the Energy Technology Institute (ETI), the report by the Government and industry contains the work of Professor Gail Taylor. The research focuses on how bioenergy can provide greenhouse gas savings if the correct crop is planted on suitable land.

Bioenergy coppice willow growing at the Sussex site.

“Planting 30,000 hectares a year of second generation, non-food bioenergy crops would keep the UK on a trajectory for scaling domestic biomass to 2050, making bioenergy a significant contributor to a future low carbon economy,” said Geraldine Newton-Cross, author of the report and ETI Strategy Manager.

ETI provided £4 million for the project which spanned over four years. The project included sites where data was gathered to assess any changes in soil carbon and greenhouse gas emissions from bioenergy crops.

The research team from Southampton included Dr Robert Holland, Dr Zoe Harris, Dr Maud Viger, Dr Suzie Milner, Dr Matthew Tallis and PhD student, Joe Jenkins. They developed a unique site located in Sussex, and followed a land use transition from grassland to short rotation coppice willow as a bioenergy crop. The research indicated that when the land tranisitioned from grass to bioenergy willow, there was greenhouse gas savings.

This research has provided important measurement- based evidence to show how growing bioenergy crops can deliver carbon emissions reductions for the UK whilst at the same time, reducing our carbon dioxide emissions.

Professor Gail Taylor

The ETI report will impact policy decisions and highlight bioenergy as a flexible low carbon option for the UK, and if applied, will be able to offer 10% of future energy demand, the key benefit being 55 million tonnes of CO2 emissions cut every year up to 2050.

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