IEA “Renewables 2018″ Report: an Outstanding Modern Bioenergy

The report “Renewables 2018″, published today by IEA, illustrates renewable energies development and integration within world energy system in 2017 as well as it provides forecasts for the 2018-2023 period.

By addressing the global state-of-the-art of renewable energies, this report shines a light on modern bioenergy, one of the the blind spots, i. e. crucial yet underestimated issues, of our energy systems.

Modern bioenergy will have the biggest growth in renewable resources between 2018 and 2023, underscoring its critical role in building a robust renewable portfolio and ensuring a more secure and sustainable energy system, according to the International Energy Agency’s latest market forecast.

Renewables will continue their expansion in the next five years, covering 40% of global energy consumption growth, according to the IEA’s Renewable 2018 market analysis and forecast report. Their use continues to increase most rapidly in the electricity sector, and will account for almost a third of total world electricity generation in 2023. Because of weaker policy support and additional barriers to deployment, renewables use expands far more slowly in the transport and heat sectors.

While the growth in solar PV and wind is set to continue in the electricity sector, bioenergy remains the largest source of renewable energy because of its widespread use in heat and transport, sectors in which other renewables currently play a much smaller role.

Modern bioenergy is the overlooked giant of the renewable energy field, said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. Its share in the world’s total renewables consumption is about 50% today, in other words as much as hydro, wind, solar and all other renewables combined. We expect modern bioenergy will continue to lead the field, and has huge prospects for further growth. But the right policies and rigorous sustainability regulations will be essential to meet its full potential.

To read full IEA Press release about “Renewables 2018″ click here.

The full report analyses several regional cases while focusing three main sectors, that is electricity, heat and transport. It also highlights policy and market improvements that may unlock potentialities of renewable energy in electricity and transport sectors while underlying the untapped potential of sustainable bioenergy and other renewable sources. Furthermore, for the first time this report includes a “Q&A” section related to the latest development in renewable energy markets. Most of all, the report raises some important issues that are worthy to focus on. 

Production Issue and Novel Advanced Biofuels

A higher production of advanced biofuels is vital for the long-term decarbonisation of the transport sector. As technologies to produce biodiesel and HVO from non-food competing feedstock such as waste oils and animal fats are determining a production increase, competition to access raw material is intensifying.  For this reason, other novel advanced biofuel technologies at a lower Technological Readiness Level (TRL), such as cellulosic ethanol and diesel substitute fuels from thermochemical processes, needs to be developed.  This specific increase within biofuels production needs to be supported by facilities construction and retrofitting: because of difficulties to attract investment after the first phase, policy is crucial. 

Sustainable Aviation Biofuels on The Way to Take Off

The challenge within the aviation sector is to reduce emissions despite increasing aviation activity: for this purpose, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has committed to carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and to reducing CO2 emissions 50% from the 2005 level by 2050. The CORSIA instrument will be the main feature of this strategy: such vision comprises biofuels covering 2% of international aviation demand in the medium term.

Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) is a key way to meet the ICAO’s long-term decarbonisation goals, but production is still low. There are only five aviation biofuel viable industrial production pathways meeting specifications and industry specifications and approved for blending with fossil jet kerosene. However, only one – hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids synthetic paraffinic kerosene (HEFA-SPK) fuel – is currently commercialised and will therefore represent the main biofuel used in aviation during the 2018-2023 period. HEFA+, a fuel like HVO but used in road applications, could be approved for use in aviation only by late 2018.

A stronger policy support is needed as well, as aviation biofuels currently cost more than fossil jet kerosene and this cost premium is a key barrier to market uptake. Furthermore, additional facilities need to be constructed and operated. Because of these issues, ongoing investment in pre-treatment research and development to access enough low-carbon feedstocks and pursuing technological development are essential.

A Need For an Acceleration in Policy Implementation

A strong sustainability framework as well as government policies and incentives are crucial in terms of attracting investments and ensuring proper market design and reliable and cost-effective system integration. Auctions will be the primary policy mechanism driving utility-scale renewable electricity capacity expansion over 2018-2023, whereas trade barriers hamper renewable energies technology development and therefore renewables growth. Policy effort occurred in 2017, but much more still has to be done.

To read full IEA “Renewables 2018″ report click here.

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