Sustainable Bioenergy 2050

Specific needs for technological research and development in the sector bioenergy to reach the climate goals.
Series 53/2013

Publisher: BMVIT
German, 162 pages

Content Description

The low carbon economy roadmap of the European Union established the target to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions until 2050 by 80-95% compared to the level of 1990. Biomass plays a crucial role in all these scenarios of a future low carbon society.

For the implementation of such scenarios, huge technological, social, ecological and economic challenge have to be solved, which are all interlinked on a global and regional scale.

The objective of this project is to identify "technology gaps" in the form of specific needs for technological research and development in the sector bioenergy and investigate them integrated with aspects of a sustainable biomass resource supply. This should lead to a contribution to the discussion around sustainability criteria of biomass, the future role of bioenergy and the prioritizing of research and technology development.

For this purpose, we started we a comparative literature analysis of targets, scenarios, potentials, roadmaps and international bioenergy trade on a global, European and Austrian level. The future role of different bioenergy technologies according to various roadmaps, scenarios and studies were identified. A core part of the work is dedicated to the case studies for the production of bioenergy in African countries for the export to Europe. Finally, we discussed the sustainability certification of bioenergy.

On a global level, currently (2009) about 10% (ca. 50 EJ) of the energy consumption is covered by bioenergy. The largest part is traditional use of solid biomass. Scenarios until 2050 show a doubling to more than tripling of bioenergy. The highest growth rates however are in the sector of liquid biofuels for transport. In Europe, bioenergy provides about 7% of the gross domestic energy consumption (GDC). According to the European national action plans for renewable energy, the amount of bioenergy until 2020 should grow by about 40% related to 2010. However, e.g. the energy roadmap scenarios show a slower growth of bioenergy.

Practically all scenarios and roadmaps assign the most essential future role to those bioenergy technologies with currently highest need for research. Basically, these are the following: innovative preparation technologies, 2nd and 3rd generation biofuels, integrated biomass gasification combined cycle, biorefineries and to some extent CHP in the medium and small scale. Hence, a core focus lies on those technologies, able to diversify and broaden the feedstock range and technologies, which are capable to more strongly make use of residues and woody biomass.

There is a considerable international trade of bioenergy and there are clear indications of a stronger possible future bioenergy production in development countries for export. Our African case studies show that there is essentially no participation of local population when it comes to foreign direct investments and related allocation of land. This leads to corresponding negative impact on the small scale structure of farmers which are essential for the food supply. Bioenergy production usually does not take place on marginal land, rather local population is forced out to these regions.

What would be needed are comprehensive, participatory decision making processes as well as detailed analyses of the complex land management and land allocation law before foreign direct investments take place. Some of these aspects could be integrated in existing system of sustainability criteria which have been implemented following the European directive for renewable energy. Other aspects would need much deeper, radical changes of international trade and the competition for direct investments, which are due to power structure partly on national African level and partly on international level.

Due to the current activities in the bioenergy sector, there is a growing global impact from Europe - and thus also Austria. Thus, there is an increasing challenge to be aware of this impact and to form it in the sense of a responsible policy. Closing bioenergy technology gaps, the sustainable supply of biomass resources and political targets and framework conditions should be more and more considered as an integrated, interlinked system.


Dr. Lukas Kranzl
TU Wien, EEG