Bioenergy is energy of biological and renewable origin, normally derived from purpose-grown energy crops or by-products of agriculture. Examples of bioenergy resources are wood, straw, bagasse and organic waste. The term bioenergy encompasses the overall technical means through which biomass is produced, converted and used. Modern bio-energy refers to technological advancements in biomass conversion combined with significant changes in energy markets that allow exploring an increased contribution of biomass to our energy needs.

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Estimated demand for biomass for energy in the EU27 countries based on national renewable energy projections and reported conversion efficiencies (Bentsen and Felby, Biotechnology for Biofuels, 2012)

The combined European (EU-27) consumption of biofuels represented 13,615,000 ktoe (tonnes of oil equivalent) in 2013 (EUR-ObservER, 2014), with a strong prominence of biodiesel which represents 79% of European biofuel consumption and 19,9% in the case of bioethanol. The orverall figures represent a growth of 28% between 2008 and 2013. Furthermore, the production of biodiesel reached 91,879,000 tonnes of oil equivalent in 2012 experiencing a 28% growth in the last five years, while bioethanol reached 20,359,000 and had a 32% growth in the same period.

With a focus on electricity: bio-electricity generation expected growth in different world regions. The share of renewable electricity will increase from 19% in 2009 to 50-60% in 2050.

Bioelectricity should amount to about 7,5% of total world electricity consumption in 2050

 

Fuel Cost for Electricity generation – a key driver for bioenergy

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Figure: Range of power generation adopted technologies. Source: IRENA

Bioenergy key drivers and advantages

 Bioenergy contributes to:

  • The reduction of energy dependency on energy imports and thus, the increased security of supply
  • The climate change mitigation (bioenergy use decreases net greenhouse gas emissions and other noxious gas emissions compared to fossil fuels, thus contributing to fulfilling the Kyoto commitment) and the fight against desertification
  • Stable employment opportunities in rural areas and among small and medium sized enterprises; this in turn fosters regional development, achieving greater social and economic cohesion at community level.

Significant advantages of bioenergy are:

  •  Widespread resources are available
  •  Biomass resources show a considerable potential in the long term, if residues are properly valorised and dedicated energy crops are grown. Bioenergy makes valuable use of certain types of waste, avoiding environment pollution and cost of disposal
  • Biomass has the capacity to penetrate every energy sector: heating, power and transport. Bio-fuels can be stored easily and bioenergy produced when needed
  • Bioenergy creates worldwide business opportunities for EU industries
  • Biofuels are generally bio-degradable and non toxic, which is important when accidents occur.

Barriers to bioenergy, specific actions against them and driving forces to support these activities

Barriers to bioenergy expansion
  • Costs of bioenergy technologies and resources
  • Competitiveness strongly depends on the amount of externalities included in the cost calculations
  • Resource potential and distribution
  • Lack of organisation in supply structures for the supply of biofuels
  • Local land-use and environmental aspects in the developing countries
  • Administrative and legislative bottlenecks.
Overcoming these barriers
  • Improving the cost-effectiveness of conversion technologies;
  • Developing and implementing modern, integrated bioenergy systems
  • It took farmers thousands of years to develop plants that are particularly suitable for food. There is therefore a considerable potential in developing dedicated energy crops productivity
  • Establishing bioenergy markets and developing bioenergy logistics (transport and delivery of bioenergy resources and products)
  • Valuing the environmental benefits for society e.g. on carbon balance.