Advanced bioeconomy can create growth and new jobs in rural areas

A growing advanced bioeconomy will not only increase the production and development of new sustainable bio-based fuels and other advanced products. It can also create thousands of new jobs in the whole value chain from feedstock over logistics, compounds and construction to the final bio-products. Many of these jobs will be in rural areas, that currently suffers from high unemployment rates, Danish analysis shows.

 Maabjerg Energy Concept (MEC) – a project with the potential to become Denmark’s first full-scale integrated advanced biorefinery – will be able to produce around 70 million litres of 2nd generation biofuels from wheat and barley straw plus biogas, power and heat. Additionally, it also has the potential to create thousands of new jobs.

Using the macroeconomic tool ADAM (Annual Danish Aggregate Model) calculations have shown, that MEC – including recent technological improvements in the project – can generate 1250 jobs per year in the construction period, which will last two years, while it can keep around 1200 people employed annually when in operation.

More blue-collar jobs

According to Søren Holm Pedersen, Head of Project Development at Vestforsyning A/S (one of the partners in MEC), many of these jobs will be so called blue-collar jobs:

“We have found that 350 of these 1200 jobs will be in the feedstock sector, which means the agriculture and pre-treatment industry; 200 will be energy production jobs, while 450 jobs will be in the sector of industry, transport and construction – due to the fact that the biorefinery will need construction maintenance. Finally, 200 jobs will be in the service sector,” he says.

In the past years the unemployment rates in blue-collar jobs have drastically increased in Denmark.[1] Due to the financial crisis and the need to reduce cost in a market with bigger competition many traditional industrial plants have either been closed or moved abroad.

In some cases this can lead to a social and financial ruin of a smaller city or village, which originally was more or less founded because of this local industrial plant.

This means that a lot of people with the same job profile – typically blue-collar – and living in a radius of a few kilometres all get unemployed at once.

“Maabjerg Energy Concept will be situated in one of these rural areas. So several unemployed people with a blue-collar background will be able to get a job again close to their home,” Søren Holm Pedersen says.

Political support is crucial

According to director Anne Grete Holmsgaard of the Danish partnership organization BioRefining Alliance this job analysis of MEC shows yet another reason for Danish and European politicians in general to support and promote advanced bioeconomy:

“Advanced bioeconomy can not only find sustainable solutions that can help reduce the European green house gas emissions and our rising dependency on oil import. It can also create thousands of new jobs both in Denmark and the rest of Europe. Jobs many EU countries so desperately need,” she says.

Former Minister of Agriculture and now in opposition, Henrik Høegh from the Danish liberal party, Venstre, also gives his full support to both MEC and advanced bioeconomy in general:

”I find that bioeconomy is a very, very interesting business area, where we need to keep our frontrunner position for the benefit of the Danish society and export. We have large companies in Denmark with great expertise within enzyme production, feedstock development and the optimal use of biomass,” he says and continues:

“Due the increasing global demand for food and fuels we need to combine these two demands when finding solutions.”

Although, sustainable, advanced bioeconomy has many advantages, it might not grow as fast as one could hope according to Henrik Høegh:

“Decreasing energy prices can make it harder for this business area to develop, though. Therefore, it can be necessary to provide extra financial and political support to keep the construction of new plants going until the price of fossil fuels increase again,” he says.

Director of BioRefining Alliance, Anne Grete Holmsgaard, stress that political support is necessary if advanced bioeconomy shall be able to compete with unsustainable biofuels and fossil fuels:

“For the industry it is crucial to get a long term and transparent framework. Therefore, we very much hope that the EU will decide on a binding target for 2G biofuels  – not only in 2020 but also in the period after. We have the technologies, we have the feedstock and we have the industries that are ready to move to create a sustainable road for biofuels and to create jobs in Europe,” she says.

Written by Julie Søgaard, Head of Innovation & Communication – BioRefining Alliance

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