Implementation of flexible bioenergy in different countries

Jun 2024

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In energy systems with rising shares of variable energy sources like solar and wind, bioenergy has an increasingly important role to play, particularly in fields where alternative renewable energy sources are difficult or costly to provide. Climate-efficient and cost-effective flexibility of bioenergy is key, for example when providing flexible electricity, and also in different energy system services such as biofuels provision, renewable heat implementation as well as carbon capture and utilization options and the reduction of grid operation costs.

However, to unlock the potential of flexible bioenergy’s contribution to the transformation of the energy system, favorable policy conditions are necessary (as they are for the whole energy system transformation). With this report experts of IEA Bioenergy Task 44 (Flexible bioenergy and system integration) analyse the developments in flexible bioenergy implementation in 14 countries and the EU. The report is mainly based on questionnaires answered by bioenergy experts in these countries, who were contacted through the IEA bioenergy network.

The results show that flexible bioenergy is considered in many different fields of application and differently prioritised between countries. The highest importance is seen in using flexible feedstocks and providing flexible power. Day-to-day and seasonal flexibility are stated as the most important for system integration and innovation and implementation pipelines are described. Increasing interest is also stated for feedstock flexibility, including varying biomass sources (and more residues and waste), as well as storage and trade options. These options have gained larger attention during the last three years in most of the countries, and implementation is ongoing. When it comes to flexible production of hydrogen or CO2, as well as poly-generation of energy and non-energy products, more countries indicate them as topics for research and demonstration. Between those early-stage concepts, flexible bioenergy and BECCS can be seen as an emerging topic, as it is considered in many energy strategies.

Many support mechanisms for the implementation of renewable energy production are stated, where most of them only support flexible bioenergy and system integration indirectly. Direct policy support for flexibility is reported from Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. Those mechanisms support the creation of flexible bioenergy capacities on biogas plants (in Germany), feed in tariffs and premiums for flexible bioenergy (Austria and Denmark) or focus Capex and Opex contribution to biobased CHPs (Switzerland). The effect of those mechanisms also depends on the level of support.

To accelerate flexible bioenergy, insufficient policy instruments and market mechanisms are seen as main barriers in almost all investigated countries. Competition with other flexibility options is of increasing importance. However infrastructural aspects are not stated as a barrier, which might distinguish flexible bioenergy from other options of system integration and can be clearly concluded as an advantage in short-term implementation.

This report is part one of the analysis of the questionnaire. The report on expectations of flexible bioenergy in different countries will follow in autumn 2024.

Figure: Flexible power supply technologies contributing to integration into the energy system.