In 2015, the European Union established an official energy policy for all of its member countries, since over half of the energy used within the EU that year was imported from other countries. The goals of the policy are to reduce dependence on foreign energy sources and reduce carbon emissions and pollution, as well as provide secure, affordable energy to European residents.
The difficulty with the European Energy Union is that the individual member states that make up the EU have different ideas about which forms of energy to pursue and different energy needs. The United Kingdom, for instance, advocates the use of nuclear power, while other countries shun the idea. However, being a part of the Energy Union gives countries access to the resources necessary to adopt positive energy policies.
After deciding to leave the European Union, Britain has a lot of work ahead when it comes to figuring out its energy goals. It may still be allowed to participate in the Energy Union, but it will no longer have a strong voice or role in policy creation. And it will have to find a way to meet national energy goals on its own while maintaining a balanced economy.
Importing biomass fuel can go a long way toward helping Britain solve these problems.
Current Energy Goals and Usage
In accordance with European Union energy policies, the UK pledged to make renewable energy 15% of its total energy use by 2020. As of 2013 the UK hit that goal, meaning that they are already well on their way to increasing reliance on efficient and eco-friendly energy.
However, gas and coal still dominate the market, though not to the extent that they did in the previous century. Gas accounts for 30.2% of all energy usage and is used mostly for heating and transportation, while coal accounts for 29.1% and is mainly used for electricity.
For several years, the United Kingdom has been experiencing an “energy gap.” The country’s energy production is not meeting the needs of its citizens, and the quickest and easiest solutions conflict with the renewable energy goals.
A report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers states that perhaps dozens of gas-power stations need to be built, or the country will fail to meet its electricity demand within a decade. The UK has called for a complete shutdown of all coal plants by 2025, with gas taking up the slack, but that would require a significant investment in new gas power plants.
Furthermore, because of Brexit, the UK will have less security when it comes to traditional fuel sources. Due to an uncertain economic futures, investors may be unwilling to contribute to gas power plant plans. If the government can’t get the necessary funds, they won’t be able to make the switch, pushing back their plans for cleaner energy.
Their largest energy partner will likely remain the EU, which could be harmful since Britain no longer has a voice in EU energy policies. Britain may face strict trade conditions and increased energy prices. They may need to negotiate with Russia for much-needed resources, which again limits Britain’s independence.
How Biomass Can Help
The United Kingdom already relies on bio-energy for nearly 7% of its energy output. And one of the largest power companies in Western Europe, which is located in the UK, recently outfitted three of its six units to be able to burn biomass for energy.
Biomass energy involves burning organic matter, such as wood pellets and inedible plants fibers, to produce electricity. One of the main selling points of biomass is that the system is carbon neutral, as the plants needed to run the generators feed on the carbon dioxide produced when the biomass is burned. The cycle greatly reduces carbon emissions and makes biomass a sustainable resource.
Another benefit of biomass reliance is that the UK wouldn’t need to build any new power plants to keep up with the energy supply. Instead, coal plants can be retrofitted to burn biomass as well as coal, keeping with the government’s plans to limit coal reliance without needing to find the resources for new plant construction. Co-burning also reduces carbon emissions by up to 80%.
If the United Kingdom were to substantially increase biomass energy, they would likely look into trading with American biomass suppliers. The southeastern United States produces a large amount of agricultural residue, which would typically be disposed of as waste matter. Repurposing it into biofuel makes the entire agricultural system more efficient and prevents excessive waste buildup.
As a whole, an increase in biomass energy would be a great way for the United Kingdom to increase its energy output while reducing its carbon emissions, especially in light of the country’s departure from the EU. Forgoing fossil fuels and difficult trade policies for affordable, environmentally-friendly energy with an already-established will boost the economy and align with the UK’s energy goals.
British companies interested in biomass should contact a supplier, or contact Uzelac Industries for advice setting up their own biomass processing equipment.