Opportunities of bioenergy and biofuels in developing economies – WS29 summary report

Aug 2023

IEA Bioenergy held its biannual workshop on 22-23 May 2023 in conjunction with its Executive Committee meeting (ExCo91). The workshop on ‘Opportunities of bioenergy and biofuels in developing economies’ was held in virtual form and was organised in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

The workshop consisted of three separate sessions:

  1. Supporting clean energy transitions and improved energy access in emerging economies
  2. Biomass supply opportunities and sustainability of supply
  3. Sustainable biofuel production

Each session consisted of keynote presentations, followed by a panel discussion. Over 560 unique participants in total from all over the globe followed one or more sessions of the workshop.

Summary report: WS29 Summary Report

The PowerPoint presentations and recordings are available at: https://www.ieabioenergy.com/blog/publications/ws29-opportunities-of-bioenergy-and-biofuels-in-developing-economies/

Key conclusions:

  • For developing economies, sustainable bioenergy fits within the overall goal to restore landscapes, fight energy poverty, increase energy security and ensure energy access, which is preferentially broadly based on local renewable energy sources.
  • Replacing traditional use of biomass with more efficient and clean bioenergy solutions more than offsets rising energy services demand in developing economies. In other words, a more efficient use of biomass means that much less biomass is needed to provide the same energy services.
  • Given the unique features of biomass supply and bioenergy systems – which go much beyond the sole aim of producing energy – it is important to take a holistic approach and consider options that target multiple climate and development goals and benefits at the same time, in terms of clean energy access, development opportunities and avoiding environmental consequences of the current fate of biobased waste and residues.
  • Residues which would otherwise decompose or be burned in the field – which now leads to important air quality problems – can be utilised, invasive plants that disturb ecological functions can be removed, or abandoned and degraded agricultural land can be revitalised, providing new sources of incomes for farmers, and improving and diversifying their livelihoods.
  • A great potential exists for biofuels in emerging economies of Latin America, the Caribbean region, Africa, and Asia as these regions have a growing demand for sustainable energy, plentiful local resources, and substantial amounts of degraded, abandoned, and underutilised land which can be revitalised to produce both food and biofuels. Sustainable intensification in agricultural land use also has great potential, e.g., under climate-smart agroforestry approaches.
  • The main challenges in implementing bioenergy projects in developing economies are related to the policy and regulatory framework, financing, feedstock supply, capacity building and communication. It is important to make best use of experiences from different regions around the world. The demonstration of real business cases needs more attention in the Global South.
  • An enabling policy environment, good prospects for market offtake, and improved access to finance are key for the required investments in biofuels production in developing economies. Viable business models / cases are key to mobilize investment, in particular from the private sector. Stable, supportive government policies are essential to provide the right investment signals. Successful bioenergy deployment also necessitates cross government coordination.
  • The international community can help developing countries in their transition to clean energy and seize the opportunities they have. International programmes supporting clean energy access, as well as international climate financing are important tools to support these transitions. It is important to exchange international experiences and share key learnings from the past decades.