Renewable energy company Drax Group has teamed up with the National Farmers Union (NFU) to develop a “roadmap” for boosting the market in perennial energy crops and identify how to use them sustainably.
The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has previously stated that if the UK is to meet its decarbonisation objectives, a “substantial area” of energy crops must be planted each year to deliver the low carbon, renewable fuel required over the coming decades.
The partnership said the programme of work will help provide insights into important diversification opportunities for UK farming businesses as they adapt to new agricultural policies.
“It will also try to identify new revenue streams that may include utilising marginal land unsuitable for food crops, as well as delivering “meaningful” climate action.
Drax Group said it will also support the company’s “ambition” for British farmers to supply a proportion of the biomass needed for its plans to develop its vital negative emissions technology bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).
Drax Group’s Chief Innovation Officer, Jason Shipstone, said: “If we can source some of Drax’s sustainable biomass for our BECCS units from domestically grown energy crops, we could further reduce our supply chain emissions at the same time as stimulating innovation within British farming.
“By encouraging British farmers to plant energy crops here in the UK, the agricultural sector can join the bioenergy industry, and support national efforts to address the climate crisis, driving down emissions and building back greener.”
The partnership follows an announcement last month from the Government to provide £4m to increase British biomass production for green energy through the Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme.
Drax Group, which has converted Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire to use sustainable
biomass instead of coal to become the UK’s largest single site renewable generator, said it plans to deploy the essential negative emissions technology BECCS in the 2020s.
NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts said: “There is a huge opportunity for the growth of perennial energy crops in the UK, with large areas of suitable land potentially available for diversification into the growing of sustainable biomass for renewable energy generation.
“This would support the UK’s decarbonisation plans as well as our own agricultural net zero ambition, alongside continuing to provide quality, affordable and climate-friendly food for the nation.”
Mr Roberts said working with Drax Group would “unlock” this potential. “We can ensure our farmers are ready to take advantage of the opportunity energy crops create, one which will provide a boost to both farm businesses and the UK’s climate credentials.
“It’s exciting that the carbon dioxide captured by the crops grown by UK farmers for Drax would be permanently removed from the atmosphere.”
Drax said by using BECCS, it could permanently remove 8m tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year by 2030, becoming a carbon negative company.