ABSTRACT

Renewable energy is energy produced from non-fossil fuel and non-nuclear sources and does not have characteristics associated with depletion of natural resources. Normally this means electricity generated by wind, wave, tidal, geothermal, hydro and photovoltaic technologies but can also refer to heat supplied directly to users from geothermal, ground and water sources. Energy production from crops or crop residues is not included in this discussion, though it does figure in European and UK discussions of renewables. There are a number of serious concerns about the use of biomass and fuel crops, principally around the whole-life-cycle carbon emissions, impacts of land use change on carbon emissions, and impacts on food availability for human consumption (Al-Riffai et al., 2010; Bringezu et al., 2009; De Santi et al., 2008; Edwards et al., 2010; EEA, 2008a; Gallagher, 2008; Howarth and Bringezu, 2009; Melillo et al., 2009; Ros et al., 2010; Schubert et al., 2010; Searchinger et al., 2008). The weight of scientific and policy analysis currently suggests that biomass and fuel crops should be excluded from efforts to increase the proportion of renewable energy feeding into the energy mix.