Net Zero is a concept that’s gained significant traction in the world of politics and business. Simply put, an organisation which has achieved ‘net zero’ emissions is one that’s taking more carbon out of the atmosphere than it’s putting in.
The race to Net Zero
The United Nations has sought to encourage this trend through its ‘Race to Zero’ campaign, which requires that participants identify their current emissions, and then execute a plan to deal with them, publishing their results along the way.
In practice, this means limiting emissions as much as possible, and then investing in offsetting to cover the rest. This might mean planting more trees to suck up the carbon in the long term. But there are other methods, too, and Bioenergy is among the most promising.
What is Bioenergy?
Bioenergy is energy that we obtain through biomass. If you’re burning timber, plants and food waste, then you’re generating Bioenergy. But burning is just one method of getting at the energy stored in living things: you might also store biomass in a sealed tank, so that it releases methane gas, which can be burned. Methane gas is much more damaging than carbon dioxide, and so storing the biomatter in a tank, rather than burying it, can be a net benefit for the environment, especially when compared with the alternative options.
Bioenergy has the advantage of being available everywhere in the world, which would make it a more secure form of energy that’s less vulnerable to changes in global supply. This goes especially if it’s part of a diversified range of energy sources.
One of the problems with Bioenergy is that it requires large amounts of land and water to be feasible. This is land that might be put to use elsewhere – in maintaining large forests and growing plants for human (and animal) consumption.
Of course, Bioenergy doesn’t need to entirely supplant fossil fuels in order to be useful. It can instead form a valuable part of a diversified green energy economy. It has the advantage over wind and solar in that the biomass can be stored – albeit temporarily. As such, we might see it used to smooth out any interruptions in power that come about when the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining. A reputable energy transition law firm will usually recommend the technology alongside a suite of others, including solar, wind, carbon capture, and ‘new’ nuclear.
Provided that we’re planting as much biomass as we’re burning, this practice is effectively infinitely renewable and carbon-neutral. So, a firm might invest a given amount in energy from biomass, and then invest the rest in planting new trees to replace the ones being burned, in order to achieve its Net Zero ambitions.