And, the WRA said biomass capacity could increase further from around 2.4 million currently to 3 million tonnes.
Richard Coulson, the association’s chair, warned that winter 2022/23 could become challenging for end-users who will need to ensure sufficient stocks against the import / export balance from mainland Europe.
Elsewhere, the panel board sector increased its usage of waste wood by 10%, reaching a record high of 1.08 million tonnes, representing 26% of the total amount of waste wood processed.
Other recycling outlets, including animal bedding products, and the reuse of waste wood remained constant at 350,000 tonnes in total, around 8% of the market.
The statistics also showed an increase in the amount of waste wood exported which rose from 92,000 tonnes in 2020 to 139,000 tonnes in 2021. Imported waste wood dropped significantly from 82,000 tonnes in 2020 to 31,500 tonnes in 2021, meaning the UK remained a net exporter.
The annual statistics are collated by a survey from WRA members, which represent more than 90% of the UK market.
Mr Coulson added: “Last year we started to see a return to the normal seasonal pattern of waste wood in the UK following Covid, and that coincided with some extended outages in UK biomass plants.
“We knew that UK producers were handling increased enquiries from mainland Europe, particularly Germany, due to a lack of domestic supply. This, coupled with high power prices, drove European power plants to source additional UK imports, which was timely and welcome given the extended outages some UK biomass plants were facing.”
He added that biomass facilities now account for around 1% of the UK’s electricity supply, and the market therefore needs to “remain cautious” of the effects of the wider European markets and further economic pressures to come.
The amount of waste wood processed in the UK rose from 3.82 million tonnes in 2020 to 4.17 million tonnes last year. The total amount of waste wood collected in the UK also went back up to 4.5 million tonnes after a decrease of 500,000 tonnes in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic.