Background to the report

Biomass, such as plants or food waste, can be used to generate power or heat, or made into biofuel for vehicles or other uses.

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Since 2002, the government has provided more than £20 billion of financial support for businesses and households using biomass for power and heat because of its potential to be a low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels.

Scope of the report

The purpose of this report is to support Parliament’s understanding of the conditions in which the government considers biomass as a sustainable, low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels.

The report examines:

  • the current role of biomass in generating heat and power, and the responsibilities in government for biomass
  • the government schemes currently in place to support the deployment of biomass, how much they have cost, and how the government makes sure scheme participants meet sustainability criteria
  • The main features of DESNZ’s Biomass Strategy


The government is relying on biomass, in combination with CCUS, to make a significant contribution to its net zero goals. For biomass to fulfil this role the government needs to be confident that the industry is meeting high standards of sustainability.

Its current monitoring arrangements rely on a combination of information provided by generators, third-party certification schemes and limited-assurance audit reports.

DESNZ considers this a proportionate approach that provides it sufficient confidence in the credibility of the sustainability criteria for existing schemes. But in our view the lack of an evaluation of how effective these arrangements have been, particularly given the long supply chains involved, means the government cannot demonstrate that its current arrangements are adequate to give it confidence industry is meeting sustainability standards.

The government must review the assurance arrangements for these schemes, including ensuring that it has sufficient resources to give it assurance over the billions of pounds involved.

It should apply the lessons from its experience to date to make sure it has clarity about the roles, responsibilities and effectiveness of the different organisations that provide assurance around sustainability.

Doing so will enable it to understand how its assurance approach will need to adapt to support its plans to strengthen sustainability criteria, and in response to increasing global demand for biomass.


Publication details

Press release

View press release (24 Jan 2024)

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