IEA: Deployment of sustainable bioenergy is urgently needed

On 27 November IEA has published a new technology roadmap for bioenergy. The report and technology roadmap by IEA provides an update on the previous roadmaps released (2011; 2012). The report reflects on the evolving context of the bioenergy sector over the past five years with changes relating to bioenergy policy, market development and market regulation. The report identifies principle opportunities, the technical, policy and financial barriers to deployment and consequently suggests a range of solutions to overcome them.

The important contextual changes of the past five years include:
1. The growing urgency to tackle climate change
2. Increased competition to bioenergy in the form of: lower priced fossil fuels; cost reductions in alternative renewable energy sources e.g. wind.
3. Good progress of complementary technologies e.g. electric vehicles.
4. A growing appreciation of bioenergy’s potential in the broader economy.
5. Increased scrutiny on sustainability issues relating to bioenergy, including direct and indirect land use change and potential competition with food production.
6. Significant progress in developing and commercialising new bioenergy technologies.
7. A slowdown in the rate of deployment for transport biofuels.

Such contextual changes have ultimately been the catalysts that have prompted the review of the short and long term strategy for bioenergy. IEA modeling deems bioenergy as a critical contributor in the development of a future low carbon based energy system This is displayed by the high usage share occupied by bioenergy within the overall renewable energy mix. Bioenergy remains the main source of renewable energy today however, IEA’s long term climate models indicate that bioenergy deployment is well below what is required for a sustainable, low carbon future bio-economy. Within the transport sector, for example, consumption of biofuels is required to triple by 2030, and a five-fold increase in the supply of bioenergy feedstock is required by 2060 in the IEA’s 2°C scenario (2DS), which seeks to limit global average temperatures from rising more than 2°C by 2100 to avoid some of the worst effects of climate change. The report indicates how bioenergy can play a key role in the future low- carbon development of sectors for which options are scarce such as: aviation, shipping or long haul road transport. IEA therefore suggests that appropriate policies, market design and regulatory frameworks need to be implemented in order to ‘level the playing field for biofuels’. To do this, the green house gas benefits that stem from bioenergy must be recognised, and measures for fossil fuels must be removed.

Contribution of bioenergy to final energy demand in 2015 and in the 2DS, 2060. Source: IEA
Contribution of bioenergy to final energy demand in 2015
and in the 2DS, 2060. Source: IEA

IEA states that as a complex, and sometimes controversial subject, bioenergy can only successfully expand upon sustainable implementation, something which is not always the case. The technology roadmaps indicate that there must be a wider and increasingly holistic deployment of bioenergy as there is a high concentration of certain energies and fuels within specific geographic areas, for example, 90% of transport biofuel is enacted in Brazil. To achieve this, IEA proposes increasing investment levels from the current $25 billion per year to $60 billion by 2030 to assist the commercialisation and deployment of both proven bioenergy solutions and those which have not yet reached maturation.

Placing an increased emphasis on enhancing international cooperation within the field of bioenergy is an additional measure that is proposed. To achieve this there should be increased expansion and importance placed upon internationally recognised governance measures and systems as this is essential in the prevention of ‘unacceptable’ environmental, social and economic effects. In order to ensure sustainable implementation and to mobilise necessary development,the report further reflects that there should be an internationally coordinated effort to develop the institutional capacity and the stakeholder skills which are needed to effectively implement the sustainable, wide- scale implementation of bioenergy with the ambition of facilitating a low- carbon based circular economy with less reliance on fossil fuels.

Further information: IEA Technology Roadmap Delivering Sustainable Bioenergy


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