UK biomass energy since 1990: the mismatch between project types and policy objectives

D van der Horst*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biomass energy is expected to play an important role in achieving the UK government's ambitious targets to boost renewables. Since 1990, the main UK support mechanism for renewables has been the non-fossil fuel obligation (NFFO). With only seven of 22 NFFO contracts for fibrous biomass energy projects now operational, the level of real progress has been disappointing. The government's renewables policy has changed over the years and is now based on five objectives. The paper aims to assess what types of biomass energy systems would be most suitable to achieve those objectives. The assessment shows that the nature of the supported developments was inconsistent with most individual objectives. To an important extent this was due to inherent operational contradictions between these objectives. It is argued that the rationale for supporting renewables should primarily lie in reducing greenhouse gas emissions or in energy diversity and security. Support for the rural economy, the development of export technologies and increased competitiveness of renewables, should be seen as desirable longer-term outcomes from the development of a biomass energy sector. By treating these as equals (and even as superiors) to the objectives of climate change and energy diversity, the UK government has actually crippled the development of the biomass energy sector. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-716
Number of pages12
JournalEnergy Policy
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2005


  • biomass energy
  • NFFO
  • renewables policy


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