Bitesized NoSFES 2022: The role of BECCS in the transition to net zero - A blog by Sarah Clark, Insights Analyst Engineer at SSEN Transmission
In May this year we published our 2022 North of Scotland Future Energy Scenarios (NoSFES), outlining our latest annual analysis on a range of potential electricity generation and demand scenarios in our network area. Looking at a range of scenarios between now and 2050, our analysis explores two pathways which would enable the transition to Net Zero emissions in the north of Scotland – and one that doesn’t if we stick to the status quo. You can read more here on our dedicated NoSFES online hub.
We’re going to take a deeper dive into the topic areas covered in this year’s NoSFES and over the coming months we’ll be following up with a range of blogs, animations and infographics which take a more detailed look at some of the different technologies discussed in our analysis. Exploring the role that each could play in supporting a resilient, robust and low carbon future in the north of Scotland.
First up in our bitesized NoSFES series, we’re taking a look at Bioenergy, Carbon Capture and Storage also known as BECCS – exploring what it is, what it does and what role it could play in the transition to net zero.
So, what is BECCS and how does it work?
In simple terms, BECCS uses a combination of two processes:
- Using biomass (organic matter) as a source of bioenergy,
- And carbon capture and storage (CCS) to capture emissions that are generated from the bioenergy process or from other fuel sources (such as gas from gas power stations).
BECCS can be considered a Negative Emissions Technology and in simple terms, it works by burning organic matter, which releases energy to generate electricity and or heat. Carbon emissions released from the burning of the organic matter (such as agricultural residue, branches, leaves and wood) are captured and then stored underground. Bioenergy is already being used across the UK, along with energy from waste, Bioenergy accounted for 8.1% of all renewable electricity generated in Scotland in 2019.
Although CCS is a relatively new technology which is currently not deployed at scale, initiatives that support the development of CCS technology such as the UK Government ‘Direct Air Capture and other Greenhouse Gas Removal technologies competition’ are underway. The competition will provide funding for developing projects that can support the removal of green house gases from the UK atmosphere. On the 8th of April 2022, the UK Government published the ‘Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) Investor Roadmap’, which outlines joint government and industry commitments to the deployment of CCUS in the UK. The UK is also a partner in the international initiative Act 3, which aims to support the development of CCS technologies through funding, research, and innovation projects.
What role is BECCS expected to play in the transition to net zero?
BECCS technologies, and also CCS, are expected to play an important role in the transition to net zero emissions, which is required by 2045 in Scotland and by 2050 in the UK as a whole. To reach these legally binding targets, and meet interim carbon reduction targets such as the Climate Change Committees’s 6th carbon budget, further decarbonisation of the power sector will be required. Decarbonisation of the power sector could be met through carbon capture and storage; particularly for non intermittent baseload generation which plays a key role in balancing the GB grid but tends to be more carbon intensive (excluding nuclear generation).
Using BECCS and CCS technologies could help the power sector to reduce its own carbon emissions whilst also meeting the need for increased electricity demand, which is expected to power the decarbonisation of other carbon heavy emissions sources such as heating and transport.
What does this year’s NoSFES analysis tell us about BECCS?
Our scenarios highlight that BECCS will begin to play a key role in the energy mix from early to mid-2030s to support the transition to net zero. In our two scenarios that support a net zero pathway, our analysis suggests that 1,200MW of BECCS will be needed between 2033 and 2035.
Next up in our Bitesized NoSFES series, we’ll be looking into what our analysis tells us about the role of batteries and storage. In the meantime, you can find out more about our 2022 NoSFES paper here and watch an animation we’ve created to explain more about BECCS above.
If you have any questions, comments or feedback on BECCs as a technology, or this year’s NoSFES analysis please contact email@example.com.