The plan accepts that energy from crops, trees and waste can make a strong contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sets out
12 key ways to make this happen.
Measures include a capital grant scheme for biomass boilers; the establishment of a new Biomass Energy Centre to provide expert information and advice, along with further grant support for biomass supply chains and a commitment to consider using biomass heating in government buildings.
The report, launched by ministers from Defra and the DTI, forms the government's response to the Biomass Task Force, which made a package of recommendations in October.
Its main argument - that biomass is particularly suited for generating heat is accepted by the government, though the action plan makes clear that electricity generated from biomass and combined heat and power (CHP) are also an important part of its future.
Lord Bach, Defra's minister for sustainable farming and food, said:
'There is enormous potential in biomass, to generate renewable energy, to help the environment and to provide another possible market for our farmers.
'We know that biomass is not the answer to every issue facing us but we should be getting much more from this valuable resource.
'This action plan provides us with a clear path forwards. It has been drawn up by a cross-government team, building on the excellent work done by the Biomass Task Force.'
Minister for energy, Malcolm Wicks, added: 'The plans we are announcing and the Biomass strategy that is being developed will supplement initiatives such as the DTI's Low Carbon Building programme and the bioenergy capital grants scheme to further increase the use of biomass technology.
'We are aiming for 10% of our electricity to come from renewable sources by 2010 and double that by 2020 so biomass will have an increasingly important role to play in the UK's future energy mix.'
The Biomass Task Force made 42 recommendations to government. The government's response accepts most of these, setting out plans for implementing them. A number of initiatives have already begun.
The task force's recommendation that the government should not pursue a renewable heat obligation will be considered further and the evidence reviewed.
The action plan is primarily for England. However the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have helped in its development and it will also contribute to a UK biomass strategy, which will be published in the next year.
The full report is available here or by linking from Defra's biomass page at http:www.defra.gov.uk/farm/acu/energy/biomass-taskforce
1. The government's Response to the Biomass Task Force Report has been produced by a cross-Government working group, led by Defra and the DTI.
2. Key points are:
* A new 5 year capital grant scheme for biomass boilers, with funding of£10 -£15 million over the first two years and a second round of the Bio-energy Infrastructure Scheme, with funding at, or close to the level, proposed by the Task Force (announced in the Climate Change Programme Review);
* Agreement in principle to support for energy crops under the new Rural Development Programme for England to be introduced in 2007, closely integrated with bioenergy market development;
* Announcement of the Forestry Commission's new Biomass Energy Centre as a major new hub for bioenergy advice and best practice for industry and the public;
* Further measures to integrate environmental assessment in the planning of energy crop development;
* Government leadership through public procurement, including the commitment to map the potential use of biomass across the main procuring departments of the government estate;
* Working with regional development agencies and other organisations to ensure effective, coordinated mechanisms for delivery of policy and advice;
* Action already taken, since publication of the Task Force report, to improve the Renewables Obligation and implementation of the associated procedures;
* Use of the planning system to stimulate renewables development, including our support for planning authorities applying a minimum percentage of renewable energy in new developments;
* Action to address regulatory barriers identified by the task force and to develop standards to improve efficacy and confidence in biomass;
* Our thinking on the use of energy from waste, which is subject to conclusions from the current review of Waste Strategy and the Energy Review;
* Support for the EU Biomass Action Plan and agreement on UK membership of the Global Bioenergy Partnership from its launch in May 2006.
* The introduction of new Building Regulations, from April 2006, with
new procedures and tougher standards which will encourage the use
of Low or Zero Carbon (LZC) systems, such as biomass.
3. The Biomass Task Force, chaired by Sir Ben Gill, reported to Government in October 2005. Full report is available here:
4. Biomass currently accounts for 84 per cent of Britain's renewable energy generation and 1.4 per cent of total energy generation.