Triumph for SCI's Energy Group!

18 Apr 2016

SCI’s Energy Group’s first event, held on 10 March, was a huge success. The Energy Group was formed to enable the society and members to contribute to the development of new and enhanced energy solutions to fuel sustainability, industrial development and improved quality of life.

Peter Reineck, Secretary of the Energy group chaired the first event entitled: The Role of Bioenergy in the UK’s Future Energy System. Peter introduced the event and the keynote speaker Dr Geraint Evans. Geraint, an Energy Engineer with 30 years' experience in the energy industry, having worked across coal, oil and biomass sectors, currently leads the Energy Technology Institute's (ETI) bioenergy programme where he is responsible for the delivery and exploitation of the ETI's bioenergy portfolio.

Geraint gave a 20 minute presentation on how the ETI have been helping inform the UK government with their aim of reducing carbon emissions by the year 2050. The UK Climate Change Act states that by 2050 we need to reduce the UK’s emissions by at least 80% compared to the 1990 base level. Of the variety of options available to reduce emissions, bioenergy is one of the most important sectors to develop, in particular as it has a major potential for creating ‘negative emissions’ when used in conjunction with carbon capture storage (CCS). The ability to capture negative emissions provides the country with the ability to offset emissions from other, hard to decarbonise, sectors such as transport.

Geraint highlighted that there are many sources of biomass suited for domestic biomass production, to support existing imports of biomass. These include waste wood (for example, from broken pallets), agricultural residues such as straw, energy crops (Miscanthus, Short Rotation Coppice willow), and by-products from the forest industry. The reason for using these sources of energy is to help decarbonise the UK energy system and ultimately reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. Bioenergy offers a unique flexibility for low carbon energy supply to a future UK energy system with its properties having the potential to deliver into heat, transport and power. ETI modelling has shown bioenergy can meet 10% of our future energy demand and could deliver net negative CO2 emissions of -55m tonnes per year in the 2050s if combined with CCS. Without bioenergy or CCS as key components it will likely be very hard for the UK to deliver an affordable low carbon energy system that meets its legally binding climate targets.

After Geraint delivered his informative presentation the audience were treated to a panel Q&A.

The panel members can be seen in the picture with Geraint Evans stood in the middle. From left to right: Richard Stark (AB Agri), Niall MacDowell (Imperial College London), Adam Brown (IEA) and Namdar Baghaei-Yazdi (University of Westminster).

The panel answered questions for 45 minutes, which ranged from; How and why is carbon capture linked to biomass reduction and what are the benefits? Biochar - is there economic sense in this and could it be bigger? Would using shallow seas and ocean for carbon capture help us get around the land issues?

A question on waste and how this can assist our 2050 climate targets caused some discussion, with the panel in agreement that waste is a valuable resource and if there was stricter control of waste going to landfill sites then it would open up more biodegradable material.

With the Q&A session coming to an end, Peter Reineck invited everyone to discuss the topic of bionenergy further over wine and nibbles. Thank you to Geraint Evans and the four panel members for sharing their knowledge at this event. A night to be proud of for the Energy Group!

Written by Becky Rivers, C&I Magazine

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