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Policymakers need to recognise bioenergy in post COVID-19 recovery

The coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic and subsequent measures taken to control it are having a significant impact on the bioenergy sector worldwide according to a World Bioenergy Association (WBA) survey conducted to understand the impact on the global bioenergy industry. A key recurring theme among respondents is their desire for policymakers to recognize bioenergy as an essential sector, incentivize bioenergy development, and establish strong and stable policies around the world.

While few respondents stated that COVID-19 was not having an impact on their business, respondents indicated that even though the pandemic has restricted the movement of people and the majority of investments are on hold, they expect the situation to improve soon and that they will have a better situation by the end of the year (graphic courtesy WBA).

The spread of coronavirus (COVID19) and subsequent measures taken to control the spread are having a significant impact on the bioenergy sector worldwide. Measures such as national/local lockdowns, social distancing guidelines, and restrictions on the movement of people and goods have led to a significant challenge to the bioenergy community.

To understand the impact on the global bioenergy community, the World Bioenergy Association (WBA) initiated a survey ‘COVID 19 and impact on global bioenergy sector’. The survey was open for responses from bioenergy stakeholders for the duration of 3 weeks (05 – 26 May 2020).

The aim of the survey was to understand the impacts of the COVID19 pandemic and the resulting lockdown on the bioenergy industry.

In terms of impact, 52 percent of the respondents indicated a “moderate” to “significant” effect of COVID19 pandemic on bioenergy businesses. Moreover, the impact on biofuel production and equipment manufacturing, cash flows/revenues, employment, and investments was 40%, 44%, 22%, and 38% respectively.

A key recurring theme among respondents is their desire for policymakers to recognize bioenergy as an essential sector, incentivize bioenergy development, and establish strong and stable policies around the world.

Based on the results, WBA issues the following key messages for policymakers:

  • Bioenergy is an essential service. Bioenergy (including solid biomass, liquid biofuels, and biogas) has provided clean, on-demand energy and its role in meeting end-use of electricity, heating and transport fuels should be recognized as essential product and service in times of crisis.
  • A bioenergy future. Policymakers should assure investors and the wider bioenergy community of their support to bioenergy and its crucial role in reducing fossil fuel use, generating jobs, local economic development, and combating climate change.
  • Dis-incentivize fossil fuels. Low oil prices, low cost of renewable energy sources, and the momentum towards a clean energy future provide the opportunity for policymakers to dis-incentivize fossil fuel development by eliminating subsidies, implementing carbon pricing policies, and developing fossil fuel exit strategies.
  • Build back better with bioenergy. Recognizing the crucial role of bioenergy in the global energy mix, governments should include support to sustainable bioenergy technologies and pathways as key themes at the centre of economic recovery packages. No more fossil fuel support.
  • Time for ambition and action. Recognizing that we face climate urgency, national governments must increase their climate ambition by setting long term, ambitious and stable targets for bioenergy and renewable energy.

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