Bioenergy is the term for energy from organic materials such as trees, food waste and crops. The UK’s biggest bioenergy producer, Drax, relies on wood. It is only possible to produce a limited supply of sustainable bioenergy.
Bioenergy feedstocks can include wood, energy crops, and 'wet' feedstocks, such as manure and food waste. These can be burned for electricity or heat, or processed to make gas. Biofuels can be made from vegetable oils or plant-based ethanol.
Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) advocates claim it is a negative emissions technology – but it is unproven at scale and puts nature at risk.
What are the risks?
The UK’s main source of bioenergy is wood: we import millions of tonnes of wood pellets every year for burning in power stations. Many come from forests which are home to threatened wildlife. Biofuels and biomass burning can create more emissions than fossil fuels. If the carbon released from converting land into bioenergy crops is accounted for, bioenergy often worsens climate change. Also, bioenergy crops compete with food and nature for land.
Sustainable biomass report
The UK's heavy reliance on imported wood biomass is unsustainable. It’s clear we need to reduce our reliance on bioenergy and, where we do use it, switch to more sustainable forms of biomass that help protect and restore natural ecosystems.
Read a report commissioned by the RSPB outlining the need to use nature-friendly biomass sources that can be found right here in the UK, including at RSPB reserves.