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UK backs 24 biomass-for-energy projects to boost indigenous production

Highlights

Seed funding for small local projects

Fuels include grasses, hemp, algae, seaweed

Biomass providing 7% of UK supply

Some 24 projects in the UK are to receive a total GBP4 million ($5.49 million) in state funding to increase production of indigenous biomass used as a source of green energy, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said Aug. 25.

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Biomass used in UK energy generation is largely sourced from abroad, notably from US wood pellet manufacturers contracted to or owned by the UK's largest biomass generator, Drax Power. Subsidies for biomass power are due to end in 2027.

"The Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme will enable greater supply of organic materials from domestic sources rather than using imported matter, with the 24 projects supporting rural economies across the UK, including providing jobs and encouraging investment," BEIS said.

Non-food energy crops such as grasses and hemp, material from forestry operations and marine-based materials such as algae and seaweed are among projects awarded individual grants of up to GBP200,000 to boost production.

The sector was "a small but important part of the renewable energy mix that the UK requires to meet its commitment to eradicate its contribution to climate change by 2050," BEIS said.

Biomass materials include non-food energy crops such as grasses and hemp, material from forestry operations and marine-based materials such as algae and seaweed.

"We are backing UK innovators to ensure we have a homegrown supply of biomass materials, which is part of our wider plans to continue driving down carbon emissions as we build back greener," said UK Energy Minister Lord Callanan.

BEIS said the government would publish a new biomass strategy in 2022 reviewing the amount of sustainable biomass available to the UK and how this could be best used across the economy.

In April UK generator Drax completed the acquisition of Canadian wood pellet manufacturer Pinnacle Renewable Energy. The deal increased Drax's annual operational capacity to 4.9 million metric tons of biomass pellets from 2022, at 17 plants in locations across Western Canada and the US South, up from 1.6 million mt at present.

System data collated by Drax showed biomass-fired power sources providing around 7% of UK supply over a one year view, at an average 2.28 GW.