Supergen Bioenergy Hub                            DEF0051

Written evidence submitted by Supergen Bioenergy Hub


Question: Are there sustainable sources of biomass for UK energy generation either from imported or domestically grown wood for pellet or woodchip? And how can future demand be met from sustainable sources?

Bioenergy is integral to the pathways for meeting climate targets laid out by both the Climate Change Committee (CCC) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (find references). Non-carbon-based technologies (electrification, renewable energy from solar and wind) should be used where possible, but bioenergy is needed for hard to decarbonise sectors (such as those where electrification is not possible in the near future or where a carbon source or deployable fuel are a necessity) and as a source of negative emissions when coupled with carbon capture and storage [1, 2]. Here we will address three key areas in response to the above question: carbon impacts, wider environmental sustainability, and sustainable resource availability.







Fig. 1. Carbon stocks of forest, wood products and wood pellets of the three forest systems over 200 years as tonnes of CO2eq mass per hectare 



-          Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), nations are required to report on all their emissions within a series of GHG inventories. The UNFCCC emission accounting framework demands the use of a comprehensive methodology to measure, report and verify emissions from bioenergy, and an overview of how bioenergy system emissions are accounted for can be found in our 2020 policy briefing on the topic [16]. Under the carbon accounting framework bioenergy can prove beneficial for both biomass producing and bioenergy using countries [16].




The recent Supergen Bioenergy Hub myth busting paper titled “Does Bioenergy Cause Biodiversity Loss? may be of interest to those considering the sustainability implications of biomass [17].


Caspar Donnison (University of California, Davis), Joanna Sparks (Aston University), Patricia Thornley (Aston University), Rebecca Fothergill (Aston University), Mirjam Rӧder (Aston University), Andrew Welfle (University of Manchester), Rebecca Rowe (UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology), Rob Holland, (University of Southampton)

The Supergen Bioenergy Hub works with academia, industry, government and societal stakeholders to develop sustainable bioenergy systems that support the UK’s transition to an affordable, resilient, low-carbon energy future.

The hub is funded jointly by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and is part of the wider Supergen Programme.

January 2023




[1] Climate Change Committee, Sixth Carbon Budget, 2020.

[2] The Supergen Bioenergy Hub, the Carbon Recycling Network, the Biomass Biorefinery Network, & the High Value Biorenewables Network, A joint response to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Call for Evidence on The Role of Biomass in Achieving Net Zero, 2021.

[3] A. Welfle, P. Gilbert, P. Thornley, Securing a bioenergy future without imports, Energy Policy 68 (2014) 1-14.

[4] A. Welfle, R.A. Holland, I. Donnison, P. Thornley, Supergen Bioenergy Hub UK Biomass Availability Modelling Scoping Report. Supergen Bioenergy Hub Report No. 02/2020.

[5] Ricardo, Biomass Feedstock Availability, 2017.

[6] M. Röder, E. Thiffault, C. Martínez-Alonso, F. Senez-Gagnon, L. Paradis, P. Thornley, Understanding the timing and variation of greenhouse gas emissions of forest bioenergy systems, Biomass and Bioenergy 121 (2019) 99-114.

[7] R. Rowe, M.N. Arshad, A. Welfle, R. Holland, R. Yuan, J. Sparks, C. Heaton, R. Fothergill, Land Use Decision-Making For Biomass Deployment, Bridging The Gap Between National Scale Targets And Field Scale Decisions.

[8] R.A. Holland, K.A. Scott, M. Florke, G. Brown, R.M. Ewers, E. Farmer, V. Kapos, A. Muggeridge, J.P. Scharlemann, G. Taylor, J. Barrett, F. Eigenbrod, Global impacts of energy demand on the freshwater resources of nations, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 112(48) (2015) E6707-16.

[9] R.A. Holland, K. Scott, P. Agnolucci, C. Rapti, F. Eigenbrod, G. Taylor, The influence of the global electric power system on terrestrial biodiversity, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 116(51) (2019) 26078-26084.

[10] A. Welfle, M. Röder, Mapping the sustainability of bioenergy to maximise benefits, mitigate risks and drive progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals, Renewable Energy 191 (2022) 493-509.

[11] M. Roder, P. Thornley, Waste wood as bioenergy feedstock. Climate change impacts and related emission uncertainties from waste wood based energy systems in the UK, Waste Manag 74 (2018) 241-252.

[12] M. Röder, C. Whittaker, P. Thornley, How certain are greenhouse gas reductions from bioenergy? Life cycle assessment and uncertainty analysis of wood pellet-to-electricity supply chains from forest residues, Biomass and Bioenergy 79 (2015) 50-63.


[14] P. Thornley, P. Adams, Greenhouse Gas Balances of Bioenergy Systems, 1 ed., Elsevier2018.

[15] S.J.G. Cooper, R. Green, L. Hattam, M. Röder, A. Welfle, M. McManus, Exploring temporal aspects of climate-change effects due to bioenergy, Biomass and Bioenergy 142 (2020).

[16] A. Welfle, M. Röder, S. Cooper, M. McManus, Accounting-whole-life-cycle-bioenergy-emissions-within-the-UNFCCC-emission-accounting-framework, 2020.

[17] Myth buster: Does Bioenergy Cause Biodiversity Loss?, 2022.