UK announces funding opportunity for advanced biofuels

By Erin Voegele | August 05, 2013

The U.K. Department for Transport recently announced it will provide £25 million ($38.37 million) in capital funding to support the development of one or more demonstration-scale advanced biofuel plants. The projects will be selected through a competitive process, with funding provided to selected projects over a three-year period, beginning in 2015. The government funding program is designed to underpin significant private sector investments.

According to information released by the Department for Transport, it will commission a feasibility study to report on the detailed design of the proposed competitive, including eligibility criteria and funding scheme options. That study will be released later this year, along with a range of potential measures to support the most sustainable fuels and spur additional innovation in the advanced biofuel sector.

“I am delighted that we are able to support these innovative technologies and believe that they will bring significant benefits to the UK. There are real opportunities for the UK to take a technological lead, driving growth, creating highly skilled jobs and seeing energy, security and environmental benefits,” said Transport Minister Norman Baker.

“Advanced biofuels have the potential to make a sustainable contribution to our 2020 renewable energy targets, as well as to our longer term decarbonisation targets,” added Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey. “There is significant potential for growth in biofuel use, in low carbon vehicles and other sectors, if advanced technologies are harnessed. This funding will give the industry the boost it needs to develop this innovative, low carbon market.”

The U.K.-based Renewable Energy Association has spoken out in support of the funding competition, but has warned that certainty in the framework for current-generation biofuels is what investors need in order to confidently invest in the biofuels of the future. “The REA welcomes this new funding for demonstration-scale advanced biofuels plants. Advanced biofuels, made using unconventional methods and feedstocks including wastes, can achieve exceptionally high environmental performance. The UK could certainly take a lead in developing advanced biofuels, spurring growth and creating jobs in a new industry,” said Clare Wenner, REA head of renewable transport. “We urge Government to give investors a signal that the regulatory framework for renewable transport fuels will be extended beyond 2020 to at least 2030, to give entrants to the competition assurance that their investments will be underpinned by legislation.”

In a press release issued by the REA, Wenner also disputes a statement Baker made to The Guardian noting that there is a need to distinguish between “good biofuels” and “bad biofuels.”

“The Minister is absolutely right to say that advanced biofuels are ‘good,” Wenner said. “But it is misleading to imply that current biofuels are ‘bad.’ Current biofuels, which meet strict sustainability criteria, can make a major contribution to renewable energy and emissions reduction targets in the short term, and enable the investments for R&D into advanced biofuels, with even better environmental performance, over the medium term. The key missing ingredient for both is a clear and supportive policy framework.”