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IEA Report: sustainable bioenergy has a key role to play in the transition to a low-carbon future

By State of Green, January 15, 2018

A recently released report by the International Energy Agency focusses on bioenergy and outlines the technological developments and policy actions required to unlock bioenergy’s potential.

While discussions about renewable energy tend to focus on the latest price and deployment developments in wind and solar power, the role of bioenergy is often overlooked. Although a somewhat controversial topic, bioenergy has a major role to play in a low-carbon energy system. This is one of the key messages from the recently released report, Technology Roadmap: Delivering Sustainable Bioenergy, from the International Energy Agency (IEA). However, the report underlines that it is only bioenergy that is supplied and used in a sustainable manner that should play a role in a low-carbon future energy system and includes a section defining when bioenergy is sustainable.

The IEA has previously presented its 2°C Scenario, which includes scenario analysis of the role different energy sources can play in limiting average global temperature increases to less than 2°C by 2100. In this scenario, bioenergy supplies nearly 17% of the final energy demand in 2060. Currently this figure is around 5%. Bioenergy also helps achieve a cumulative reduction in carbon emissions of almost 20% by 2060.

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Bioenergy can be the solution in sectors where other decarbonisation options are not present. Specifically, the report highlights the use of bioenergy in the transport sector, suggesting it is a way to complement improved efficiency and electrification. This is particularly relevant in aviation and shipping.

Broadly, the report re-examines the role of bioenergy in light of changes to the energy landscape over the past five years as well as recent experience in bioenergy policy, market development and regulation. It identifies the principal opportunities and the technical, policy, legal, financial and market barriers to deployment, and suggests a range of solutions to overcome them, outlining those which are available now and in the longer term. Many of these opportunities are highly suitable for emerging and developing economies experiencing rapid energy demand growth.

-Related news: The International Energy Agency: The Green Transition is Underway

Key barriers to the further deployment of bioenergy are twofold. An increase in the supply of biomass feedstock used to create bioenergy will be required if the use of bioenergy is to become more widespread. Such an expansion must be accompanied by international sustainability governance measures the report adds, in order to avoid adverse environmental, social and economic effects. Furthermore, an increase in deployment will require additional investment, both in terms of institutional capacity building and in terms of economic investment. The IEA estimates that investment in bioenergy needs to rise from current levels of around USD 25 billion per year to USD 60 billion per year by 2030, and to around USD 200 billion per year between 2050 and 2060.

Technology Roadmap: Delivering Sustainable Bioenergy is part of a new series of reports produced by the IEA, which analyses the long-term prospects for individual clean energy technologies, with the aim of accelerating their deployment.

Source: International Energy Agency

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