December 2005

Heating with biomass is a hot topic, says London’s task force

London— Britain should use biomass to generate heat the Biomass Task Force told the Government in October, 2005.

The Task Force concluded that biomass (fuel from forestry, crops and waste) could reduce the nation’s carbon emissions by almost three million tons a year if used to provide heating. The carbon saving would be the equivalent of taking 3.25 million cars off the road.

The chairman of the Task Force, Sir Ben Gill, presented the findings of the year-long study to Defra and the DTI, whose Secretaries of State jointly commissioned the report.

Sir Ben said: “What many see as tomorrow’s fuel is here today. We estimate there could be 20 million tons of biomass available annually. The challenge for the Government now is to unlock this vast potential. We have suggested several ways to develop this industry which has a vital role in climate change, sustainable development throughout the country and economic activity in rural areas.

“Heat has been the forgotten part of the energy debate - enough waste heat is emitted from our power stations to heat the country one and a half times over - but our findings show that producing heat either alone or in Combined Heat and Power plants is by far the most efficient way of using biomass.

“There are many renewable sources of electricity but biomass is the only widely-available source of renewable heat. Heat generation accounts for 40 per cent of our national energy consumption. At a time of rising oil prices, biomass heating is fast becoming an attractive economic option. And it is a cheaper way of cutting carbon emissions than many other options.”

The Task Force made 42 recommendations, including a call for the introduction of capital grants to fund more biomass heating boilers and says that public buildings can be the ideal place to begin the expansion.

The report also gives examples of where biomass boilers are already operating successfully, including at Defra’s Worcester offices and at a new Cheshire school which has cut its energy consumption by more than 75 per cent.

The Task Force concluded that one of the biggest barriers to progress is ignorance and recommended that the Government act in the next six months to create a single information point on biomass for the country as a whole as well as delivering on its promise in the 2003 Energy White Paper to lead by example in its own building stock.

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