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Biofuels: Carbon Emissions

Volume 474: debated on Tuesday 22 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what (a) evidence he has evaluated and (b) what research he has commissioned, on the whole life carbon emission consequences of the replacement of fossil fuels with biofuels for power generation; and if he will make a statement. (200068)

There has been significant research in this area. DTI/BERR commissioned work up to 2003 from both Sheffield Hallam University and Imperial College. This aimed to produce a set of baseline energy and carbon balances for a range of electricity, heat and transport fuel production systems based on biomass feedstocks. The latest report is “Carbon and Energy Balances for a range of Biofuels Options” (URN 03/836) and can be viewed on the BERR website at:

http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file14926.pdf?pubpdfdload=01%2F1342

From 2003, this work was taken forward by the Environment Agency, where the Biomass Environmental Assessment Tool (BEAT) was developed three years ago to provide lifecycle emissions data for a variety of biomass feedstocks and plant, compared to fossil alternatives. In response to the recommendations of the Biomass Task Force, DEFRA and the Environment Agency jointly updated the BEAT to make it widely available and BEAT2 is now almost ready for release. Meantime present information can be seen at:

http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Menu=Menu&Module=More&Location=None&ProjectID=14484&FromSearch=Y&Publisher=1&SearchText=nf0434&SortString=ProjectCode&SortOrder=Asc&Paging=10#Description

This analysis also underpinned the development of the Biomass Strategy in 2007 ref. Working Paper 1—Economic analysis of biomass energy (URN 07/950) on the BERR website:

http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file39040.pdf

Elsewhere, the International Energy Agency under their Bioenergy Task 38 are investigating greenhouse gas balances of biomass fuelled systems:

http://www.ieabioenergy-task38.org/description/

and the UK Energy Research Centre has carried out life-cycle analysis of renewable energy systems:

http://www.ukerc.ac.uk/AboutUs/AboutUSHomepage.aspx.

The University of Aberdeen has also carried out work in this field:

http://www.abdn.ac.uk/biologicalsci/staff/details.php?id=pete.smith

and the Carbon Trust are presently looking at embodied emissions associated with per unit of energy from biomass, contrasting that to fossil fuel emissions:

www.carbontrust.co.uk

This is an area that will continue to be studied as the Government develop their Renewable Energy Strategy.