Bioenergy provides a significant proportion of the UK’s low carbon energy supply for heat, transport fuel and electricity. There is scope for bioenergy to provide much higher levels of low carbon energy in future, but this requires appropriate development of key enabling technologies and strategic management to make the best use of the valuable, but finite, biomass resource. It must also be acknowledged that there have been significant concerns raised about the long term sustainability of bioenergy systems, including the wider social and economic impacts of biomass production.
The SUPERGEN Bioenergy Hub aims to bring together industry, academia and other stakeholders to focus on the research and knowledge challenges associated with increasing the contribution of UK bioenergy to meet strategic environmental targets in a coherent, sustainable and cost-effective manner. It will do this by taking a “whole systems” approach to bioenergy, so that we focus on the benefits that new technologies can bring within the context of the whole production and utilisation chain. In order to ensure focused research with rapid dissemination and deployment this will be done in close collaboration with industrial partners and other stakeholders, including government agencies. The hub will also take an expressly interdisciplinary approach to bioenergy, ensuring that we address important issues, such as the impacts of land-use change not just as scientific quantification exercises, but taking due account of the social and economic impacts.
The hub will:
- Act as a focal point for sharing and dissemination of scientific knowledge and engineering understanding to facilitate near-term deployment of technologies
- Investigate and develop new approaches for dealing with the very significant engineering challenges associated with deployment of more novel technologies
- Improve scientific understanding of the fundamental aspects of different forms of biomass and its conversion
- Take a whole-systems perspective to comprehensively evaluate the potential of future technology options
- Adopt an interdisciplinary approach to look beyond the engineering and technical aspects of bioenergy and ensure adequate consideration of the impacts on ecosystems, social responses to technology deployment and the economic context of policy development.