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.

5. Related Sectors and Policies

As indicated earlier, bioenergy is cross-cutting, key policies which are interlinked and will be part of our considerations going forward include:

Spatial planning

The National Planning Framework (NPF) 4 Position Statement[8] published last November made it clear that climate change will be at the heart of our new spatial strategy and national planning policies. It signals a key shift towards a net zero agenda, reducing inequality and improving health and wellbeing. It sets out thinking over 4 key themes – net zero emissions, resilient communities, wellbeing economy and better greener places.

Some of the most significant changes we expect to explore in the development of NPF4 include stronger support for sustainable, low and zero carbon developments. We will lay the draft NPF4 in Parliament in autumn 2021. Public consultation will run alongside Parliament's consideration during autumn 2021 and we anticipate producing a final version of NPF4 for approval and adoption around spring 2022.


The Climate Change Plan update (CCPU) set out our policy to support farmers and crofters to produce food for people and livestock more sustainably, but we also want them to use appropriate land to support carbon sequestration and storage through planting trees and restoring peatland.

The CCPU included a new policy proposal to explore options for land-use change. Going forward, we will open a discussion on optimum land uses beyond just farming and food production to multi-faceted land use including forestry, peatland restoration and management and the growth of crops for biomass at scale.

These are new commitments and it will be important to consider the relevant evidence and data required to inform such a discussion and plan an approach across agriculture and all other land uses to ensure all competing demands on rural land are being considered together.

Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)

Current domestic biomass supply comes primarily as an output from the forestry and timber industries. Our [9]research suggests increases in biomass availability as current forests mature, which leads to an increase in the availability of processing residues from sawmills as well as an increase in the availability of small diameter timber from the forest. Scottish Government policies seek to increase forestry and woodland from 18% of Scotland's land area to 21%, resulting from an additional 18,000 ha of forestry and woodland plantation per year.

How best to incentivise and reward high nature value farming, including peatland restoration and agro-forestry, will be considered and included in our policy and approach to future rural support, which will also include sustainable food production, emissions reduction, production of biofuel crops and appropriate land use change. All proposals for land use change on a significant scale will need to take account of the public attitudes to such changes.


In line with the waste hierarchy, our primary focus is on preventing waste and promoting the reuse of materials. However, we still need capacity to dispose of residual waste while we make the transition to a circular economy.

In the context of the latest CCC recommendations and building on progress already made by the sector, we will consider measures to ensure new energy from waste plants are more efficient and how waste infrastructure can be 'future-proofed' for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. In line with EU Commission's Circular Economy Package, we will also consult on requirements to separately collect garden waste (by 2023).

We will also consult on extending the ban on sending biodegradable municipal waste to landfill to include biodegradable non-municipal wastes and consult on the current rural exemption and food separation requirements for food waste collections.


Significant change in behaviours and patterns of mobility is essential to decarbonising our transport system to support the net zero transition. However, considerable demand for powered vehicles will remain and we believe electrification of the majority of vehicles on Scotland's roads to be the optimum solution.

For some classes of vehicles however, electrification is simply more difficult, with market-ready options still some time away. There are also large numbers of petrol and diesel engine vehicles in use today that have significant lifespans remaining. Lower carbon fuels such as biomass-derived fuels or those from green hydrogen – will play a role as we decarbonise. The extent of this role will be clarified in the context of wider bioenergy policy choices, as well as the development of other technologies.

While there have been promising developments in fully electric, hybrid and hydrogen aircraft, it is not expected that these aircraft can be used for long haul routes in the foreseeable future. Sustainable Aviation Fuels have a number of different production routes and feedstocks, with the maximum percentage blend currently at 50%. At the moment, there is no Sustainable Aviation Fuel production in the UK.

Our policy approach to the production or use of biofuels has largely been focused on the promotion of biofuels for transport through the UK-wide Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO). Through that mechanism, lower carbon liquid fuels are already blended in increasing amounts into standard petrol and diesel road fuel supply chains. RTFO also supports other more advanced fuels like hydrogen and waste-derived biofuels.

The Scottish Government welcomes the Department of Transport's consideration of widening the support of RTFO to include other transport sectors like rail and aviation, as well as more fully supporting advanced low carbon fuel markets.

Air Quality

Bioenergy can be a source of certain air pollutants, notably fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, which impact on human and environmental health. Where certain conditions are met, the impacts of bioenergy deployment for heat production can be managed to minimise impacts on local air quality. These conditions are:

  • all new biomass plant are of high quality, corresponding to the best performing units currently on the market;
  • the majority of biomass heat uptake replaces or displaces existing coal and oil fired heating;
  • the majority of uptake is located off the gas grid and therefore generally away from densely populated urban areas; and
  • levels of uptake where a local authority has declared an Air Quality Management Area are substantially lower than other areas.

Current air quality policy is set out in the Cleaner Air for Scotland strategy[10]. A new strategy will be published later in 2021.


The growth of our bioeconomy is crucial to reduce Scotland's dependency on carbon intensive feedstocks and to make our manufacturing sector more sustainable. In 2019, Scotland refreshed its National Plan for Industrial Biotechnology (IB)[11] which set out ambitious targets of a £900 million turnover and over 200 companies active in industrial biotechnology by 2025 with a focus on five key themes: Policy & Public Engagement, Industry Engagement, Innovation, Skills and Biorefining.

The biorefining theme identifies how we can further develop Scotland's bio-based economy through 6 key bio resources identified in the Bio-refinery Roadmap for Scotland (2019)[12] - whisky co-products, municipal solid waste and food processing by-products, agricultural biomass, forestry biomass, and marine biomass.

The themes in the National Plan for IB align well with the UK Bioeconomy Strategy which discusses how understanding resource flows, creating national and international supply chains for new bioenergy businesses and encouraging new entrants to invest in biorefining and liquid fuel production facilities is critical for growth of the bioeconomy.



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