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Biomass Power & Thermal: UK biomass jobs report: 50,000 by 2020


By 2020, roughly 50,000 more people in the U.K. could be employed in the biomass industry. According to a new report titled “UK jobs in the bioenergy sectors by 2020,” there has been a lack of reliable data showing the potential impact of biomass on the U.K. economy.

So U.K. bioenergy consulting firm the National Centre for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials (NNFCC), was tasked by the U.K. Department of Energy & Climate Change to compile research literature and conduct an industry-wide survey. NNFCC recently released its comprehensive report that indicates biomass will exceed all other renewable energies as an employer in the next eight years.

The majority of jobs created in that time, the report said, will be in technical roles such as engineering and construction, both during new builds and ongoing operations. The industry will also employ feedstock producers, harvesters, processors and haulers. “Biomass is seen as a major contributor to the delivery of the 2020 targets for electricity, heat and transport fuels,” the report said, noting that the inclusion of jobs related to biomass logistics is an added, yet underestimated benefit.

The report did note, however, that the size of the biomass logistics economy is widely dependent on the origin of the feedstocks used. For the study, the NNFCC assumed that 10 percent of biomass power feedstock and 50 percent of biomass thermal feedstock would be sourced from within the U.K. The NNFCC did not include advanced conversion technologies such as gasification or pyrolysis as potential job creators because of the lack of operational plants and unavailable real world data.

In its overview, the NNFCC described the U.K. employment potential for electricity generation and heat with three different production level scenarios. At the highest assumed level of production, the report predicts the development of 5,200 biomass power jobs, 9,498 biomass thermal jobs, 2,647 project development jobs, 24,448 construction jobs, 16,403 maintenance jobs, and 7,019 biomass supply jobs, for a total of 50,517.

“Similar studies have been undertaken in other renewable sectors, for example offshore-wind, where numbers of jobs in this sector by 2020 have been mapped,” the report said. “A comparable analysis is required for the bioenergy sector, to help understand the wider benefits to the economy, over and above the energy generation potential and environmental impact.”

Overall, the report predicted that the biomass heat sector could create the most jobs by 2020, at 30,000. Next was biomass power at 18,000, followed by anaerobic digestion with 2,500.