Press Release – How bioenergy contributes to a sustainable future
Graz, 19 January 2023 – Dina Bacovsky, chair of IEA Bioenergy, presents the latest Bioenergy Review, an assessment report on the global status of bioenergy.
Bioenergy is today the largest source of renewable energy, representing around 10% of global energy supply. Part of that is ‘traditional’ biomass use in inefficient and high polluting devices or open fires which needs to be phased out as soon as possible. On the other hand, modern bioenergy in efficient and clean appliances and processes is indispensable for the transformation and decarbonisation of our energy system, complementing other renewable energy sources and efforts to reduce energy demand. Bioenergy is also an integral part of a circular biobased economy, often valorising the waste or residues of other biobased production processes.
Bioenergy is very versatile and will contribute to the required transformation in different ways that will, even themselves, change along the transition to our future energy system. Subject to the condition that biomass is sustainably sourced and efficiently used, bioenergy not only offers quick solutions for defossilising existing infrastructure and fleets, but can also support ecosystems, create socio-economic benefits, provide for clean cooking, and stabilise an energy system in transition.
Bioenergy is one of the important and necessary elements in combating climate change. Climate change, however, is not the only driver of bioenergy deployment. The Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine pointed to the risks inherent in global supply chains and the value of a diversified supply that is more regionally based. With energy security having again become a critical issue, bioenergy is able to improve the resilience of societies around the globe by providing greenhouse gas emission reductions, regional energy supply, income to rural communities, and energy system flexibility.
Exploring new ways to produce liquid biofuels from biomass residues
(Photo credit: ETA-Florence Renewable Energies)
A necessary facilitator of a sustainable future
Sustainability is a key issue to consider in all human activities. Acting sustainably means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainability is a broad policy concept and consists of at least three main dimensions: the environmental, economic, and social dimensions.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the emission of local air pollutants, biodiversity, land and water use, etc., all come within the purview of environmental sustainability. Forests and agricultural landscapes can be sustainably managed so that they can, in addition to main food or wood products, deliver biomass for bioenergy to reduce GHG emissions in the energy system while also maintaining or improving biodiversity, carbon sinks, and species abundance. In many regions, bioenergy has to comply with strict sustainability criteria and standards so as to assure effective GHG emission reductions, the preservation of carbon stocks in soils and forests, and conservation of biodiversity.
The term economic sustainability encompasses the supply of sufficient quantities of biomass feedstocks at reasonable prices. Costs for biomass feedstocks and bioenergy carriers vary regionally and also depend on their intended use and what competition there is from other market actors for the same feedstocks.
Social sustainability, finally, deals with how sustainability affects people, their health and well-being, and their ability to make a decent living. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which all United Nations Member States have adopted and aim to achieve by 2030, balance the three dimensions of sustainability and aim for a just transition to a sustainable future. Biomass production and use can positively contribute to the achievement of various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as has been demonstrated for different cases around the globe.
Modern bioenergy allows for more efficient use of domestic resources for energy production and economic activity. It is not only part of the solution, modern bioenergy is a facilitator of the whole process:
- It creates room for diversified investments, as some bioenergy technologies are ready and suitable for existing infrastructure.
- Demand for sustainable biomass resources shapes sustainable forestry and agricultural practices which supports ecosystems and contributes to biodiversity.
- Biomass supply chains involve a broader cross-section of society, supporting economy democratisation and decentralisation.
- Bioenergy versatility and possibility of long-term storage mitigates instability of an energy system in transition.
No matter which sustainability avenues are chosen, modern bioenergy will be part of the picture.
IEA Bioenergy Review Update 2023
The IEA Bioenergy Review Update 2023 presents an evidence-based assessment of the status of bioenergy around the world. The assessment is based on work conducted by over 200 experts, active within the Tasks of the IEA Bioenergy Technology Collaboration Programme (TCP). The aim of IEA Bioenergy is to advance bioenergy technologies and provide factual input to evidence-based decisions in relation to biofuels and bioenergy. The report’s goal is to reinvigorate awareness and interest in bioenergy, address concerns that arise in the public debate, demonstrate the synergies between bioenergy and other renewable as well as the biobased economy, and point out opportunities that can be seized by many countries around the globe.
The information provided here is complemented by information from other multilateral initiatives such as the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, and the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP): these organisations focus on emerging economies and developing countries and, for instance, on topics such as phasing out the traditional use of biomass and replacing it with clean cooking options.
The report has been officially launched by Dina Bacovsky, Chair of IEA Bioenergy, on 19 January 2023 during the 7th CEBC – Central European Biomass Conference, taking place in Graz, Austria.
Distributed as an open web-based publication to enhance usability, the report is divided into two parts:
– Part A “Strategic View on Biomass and Bioenergy” deals with bioenergy and its contribution to a sustainable future.
– Part B “Technologies for Sustainable Bioenergy” describes the status and perspectives of different bioenergy technologies.
IEA Bioenergy Review Update 2023 was written by the following team of experts: Dina Bacovsky, Christa Di ßauer, Bernhard Drosg, Matthias Kuba, Doris Matschegg, Christoph Schmidl, Elisa Carlon (all BEST), Fabian Schipfer (TU Vienna), and Florian Kraxner (IIASA). Vera Djemelinskaia, a communication specialist, provided guidance to the authors to find simple language for complicated issues. She also guided the report through the process of delivery. Kathryn Platzer edited the text for English language. ETA-Florence Renewable Energies created the report layout and infographics and implemented both the web and the pdf version. Nina Kononova created additional visuals.