New emissions figures give boost to UK renewable fuel industry

Emissions from arable land in the UK could be 15% lower than previously thought, according to new estimates, marking a potential boost in the amount of crops grown specifically for use in renewable fuels.


A five-year study, produced by 23 organisations including the Renewable Energy Association (REA), National Farmers Union and DEFRA, found that emissions produced by the UK’s arable sector are significantly lower than previously thought.

The REA said the findings meant that renewable fuels produced from UK feed wheat and sugar beet have an even lower relative carbon footprint compared to fossil diesel and petrol.

Clare Wenner, the head of the REA sustainable transport group, said: “This major study proves that our domestically produced renewable fuels have a great GHG reduction benefit. 

“Add to this the valuable high protein animal feed co-products that go back to livestock farmers and you have a fantastic environmental story. We should be proud of our achievements.”

Opportunity

Around a third of the renewable liquid transport fuels used in the UK comes from UK feedstocks with an average carbon saving of 65% compared to fossil fuels.

And the new report suggests that environmental savings could be even greater. For example, the GHG intensity of wheat ethanol and oilseed rape biodiesel is 15% and 16% lower than expected, respectively.

Likewise, the report found that emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide from UK arable land is about half of IPCC estimates.

Debate

The study could help increase the uptake of biofuels, which until now have been controversial, thanks to their potential impact on food production and the expected emissions from growing crops.

The transport sector currently gets around 4.4% of its fuel from renewable sources, putting the UK behind schedule to meet a legally-binding target of 10% by 2020.

Brad Allen

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