Five cornerstones to unlock the potential of flexible bioenergy

Dec 2021

This discussion paper IEA Bioenergy Task 44 Five cornerstones to unlock the potential of flexible bioenergy – produced by IEA Bioenergy Task 44 (Flexible Bioenergy and System Integration) – describes the current role of flexible bioenergy in the energy system and identifies potentials and bottlenecks, future pathways and five cornerstones for the successful implementation of flexible bioenergy systems.

A large portfolio of innovative technologies is needed to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs). Achieving least-cost reliable and sustainable energy systems is a global challenge. Renewable energy sources are key for all energy sectors to achieve climate neutral energy supply till mid of century at the latest. Driven by favourable policy environments, market opportunities and substantial cost reductions, variable renewable energy (VRE) like wind and solar photo-voltaic (PV) are increasingly important energy sources to expand energy access and enable electrification based on clean energy. This essentially changes the structure and operation of the power systems, but also influences the renewable energy provision for heat and transport sector.

Bioenergy is a key option in fields where alternative renewable energy sources are difficult or costly to provide. Those options for bioenergy are for example seen in the aviation sector, heavy duty transport, in high temperature industry heat, but also in enhancing renewable energy supply systems for residential heating during cold seasons or for electricity, especially if it comes to balancing electricity supply and demand in systems with high shares of VRE like wind and PV.

Flexible bioenergy provides additional value to different energy sectors and can accelerate the transformation towards renewable energy systems. Five cornerstones for the successful implementation of flexible bioenergy systems are necessary:

  1. Clear definition of the flexible bioenergy portfolio
  2. Policy and market conditions to value flexibility
  3. Monitoring of best cases and multiplication of their experiences
  4. Technology development to enable higher degrees of flexible operation
  5. Appropriate consideration of flexible bioenergy options in long term energy system planning