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Lord Browne speech to the REA Christmas Parliamentary Reception




Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the House of Lords, and thank you all for coming today.


We’re here primarily to celebrate the season, but we are also here to talk about Britain’s energy future.


Depending on your point of view, energy has fortunately, or unfortunately, leapt to the top of the political agenda.


The discussions are intriguing but we must not lose the plot – Britain needs to invest heavily in its energy infrastructure, and we must do so in a way that preserves the environment for future generations.


We can only do this by encouraging new and innovative competitors into energy markets, and by building confidence that policy will help, not hinder growth.


In my opinion, the Energy Bill which seeks to achieve these goals has proven to be like a fine wine: it has matured well with age. The government has slowly listened to industry concerns and the proposals we have now are undoubtedly an improvement on what we started with.


Renewables are important to this country’s future, and biomass is a very special kind of renewable technology that we cannot do without for three reasons.


It is secure: delivering base load energy from a fuel readily available in the UK and its closest trading partners


It is cheap: reports from Arup and Bloomberg New Energy Finance indicate that biomass conversion and co-firing are amongst the cheapest renewable technologies on a levelised cost basis


And biomass is undoubtedly positive for UK emissions, as it makes use of existing infrastructure to replace heavily polluting coal. So far this year Britain has generated 45% of its electricity through coal, up from 30% in 2011, so the opportunity to reduce emissions through biomass is immense.


That said, the industry faces a challenge in explaining to the public and policymakers why biomass is good.


I have watched as European biofuels policy descended into chaos because issues surrounding land-use and sustainability were not properly understood or communicated.


It is critical that the solid biomass sector does not allow the same thing to happen.


And with money tight, for the government as well as consumers, it makes sense to position biomass as a low-cost and secure renewable fuel which allows Britain to meet its targets in the cheapest possible way.


To my mind, the technologies that best deliver according to Britain’s economic priorities will be the winners in the end.


Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you enjoy the rest of the afternoon.