Bioenergy: update - March 2021

Considers the potential role for bioenergy to support our net zero greenhouse emissions targets and outlines how we intend to move forward over the next 18 to 24 months to understand the most appropriate and sustainable use of bioenergy resources in Scotland.

2. Introduction


To set out the potential role for bioenergy[1] to support our net zero greenhouse emissions targets and outline how we intend to move forward over the next 18 - 24 months to understand the most appropriate and sustainable use of bioenergy resources in Scotland.

Bioenergy is cross–cutting, affecting a wide range of sectors including agriculture, forestry, energy, waste, planning and transport. All relevant Scottish Government policy areas will be part of the work to ensure that a strategic/co-ordinated approach is adopted.


The Scottish Government made a commitment in our Scottish Energy Strategy (December, 2017) to publish a Bioenergy Action Plan. However, since then, there have been a number of key developments at both a UK and Scottish level which may have a bearing on the role that bioenergy could play in the energy transition. These therefore give rise to the need for further investigation before a Bioenergy Action Plan can be agreed; in particular, the following changes are noted:

  • The adoption by the Scottish Government of world leading net zero targets by 2045 and a new target to reduce emissions by 75% by 2030, and the commitments in the Climate Change Plan update (December 2020) which relate to bioenergy's role in the transition to net zero.
  • The publication of the UK Government Energy White Paper[2] (December 2020) – Powering Net Zero Future, which proposes a number of commitments for bioenergy; and
  • The publication of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) 6th carbon budget advice (December 2020), and its view of the role of bioenergy.

Overall the Scottish Government's aim is to see bioenergy used where it has the greatest value in reducing emissions, however this decision is also dependent on which sectors will make the best use of the bioenergy feedstocks that we can grow sustainably or produce domestically in comparison with those we may need to import.

Our overall intention is to develop a strategic framework or set of guiding principles that will complement our waste hierarchy and wider circular economy drivers and commitments.

We will assemble a Scottish Government working group comprised of colleagues from across all relevant policy areas. This group will develop a strategic framework for bioenergy, taking into consideration the competing demands on land for feedstock production, sustainability, technical capabilities and opportunities of a just transition to net-zero.

This working group will be guided by an Expert Panel, to be established during 2021, which will include a wide range of interested and expert parties, including NGOs and pressure groups as well as sectoral representatives in order to capture a comprehensive range of perspectives and take a whole system view.

In summary, we will consider:

  • Our existing domestic biomass supply chains. The volume of bioenergy resources that we can sustainably collect, grow or produce within Scotland and the implications of doing do, including the potential to deliver multi-benefits, for example biodiversity, landscape, and economic benefits to local communities.
  • The level of imports we believe is viable, and compatible with a sustainable global trade in bioenergy.
  • The need to ensure our bioenergy policy is compatible with wider sustainable land use policy including the delivery of environmental goals, and recognising public attitudes to land use change.
  • The potential new role of Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) technologies, in helping to support our net zero targets, and the implications of scaling up domestic biomass production to meet this potential demand.
  • The potential to increase the market for biomethane production and its injection into the gas grid.
  • What new support schemes and/or policy at both a UK Government and Scottish Government level may be required to facilitate development and deployment.

By 2023, in time to inform the next Climate Change Plan update, and to take account of decisions that are reserved to the UK Government, we will publish a Bioenergy Action Plan.

Reserved/Devolved Powers

The Scottish Government's ability to influence future UK energy policy is limited; we do have some important policy levers, such as building standards, environmental regulation and our powers to grant consent and planning permission for energy generators. However market support and its subsequent criteria for different forms of power generation and the regulation of the gas and electricity grids are reserved to the UK Government and Ofgem, respectively.

As such, the decisions taken by the UK Government on how it will support bioenergy technologies such as BECCS; future access to biomass imports through trade agreements as well as incentives for green gas production (such as biomethane from anaerobic digestion) will be critical to maximising bioenergy potential in Scotland.



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