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Expanded role for bioenergy essential – new IEA technology roadmap finds

A new International Energy Agency (IEA) technology roadmap, “Technology Roadmap: Delivering Sustainable Bioenergy" provides milestones and policy actions needed to increase bioenergy supplies in a sustainable and cost-efficiency way. An expanded role for bioenergy, especially in transportation, is an essential component of a low carbon energy future the report finds.

Bioenergy in final energy consumption needs to double by 2030, and biofuels in transport treble. Advanced biofuels will need a massive scale-up (graphic courtesy IEA).

Published by the Renewable Energy Division (RED) of the International Energy Agency (IEA) the report “Technology Roadmap: Delivering Sustainable Bioenergy plots a path for “the most important renewable energy source today – bioenergy” by providing the technology milestones and policy actions needed to unlock the potential of bioenergy in line with a long-term low-carbon and sustainable global energy mix.

The authors note that although bioenergy is complex and sometimes controversial, it is unique compared to other renewable energy technologies in how it can provide low-carbon transport fuels, electricity, process heat for industry and space heating. Furthermore, that there is growing recognition that modern bioenergy supplied and used in a sustainable manner can play a role in a low carbon energy future.

According to the report, modern bioenergy in final global energy consumption should increase four-fold by 2060 in the IEA’s 2°C scenario (2DS), which seeks to limit global average temperatures from rising more than 2°C by 2100 to avoid some of the worst effects of climate change.

One of the authors of the IEA report, Pharoah Lefeuvre, here discussing bioenergy’s role at the recent AEBIOM European Bioenergy Future (EBF) conference held in Brussels, Belgium.

However, the current rate of bioenergy deployment is well below the levels required in low carbon scenarios. Accelerated deployment is urgently needed to ramp up the contribution of sustainable bioenergy across all sectors, notably in the transport sector where consumption is required to triple by 2030 to keep pace with the 2DS.

The report finds that biofuels play a particularly important role in helping to decarbonize aviation, marine and long-haul road freight. Though two-thirds of that increase should come from advanced biofuels and notably from cellulosic ethanol, it means scaling up current advanced biofuels production by at least 50 times by 2030.

The authors point out that “conventional” or first-generation biofuels have an important contribution to make in the transportation sector as advanced technologies scale-up and highlight that decisions on the desirability of biofuels – whether first- or second-generation – should be “based on the actual GHG performance of specific routes from feedstock to energy, rather than a classification based on feedstocks or technologies.”

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