Bioenergy is energy of biological and renewable origin and refers to the technical systems through which biomass is produced or collected, converted and used as an energy source. Modern bioenergy 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. A wide variety  of conversion routes can be distinguished that produce a variety of energy carriers either in a solid, liquid or gaseous form. These energy carriers address all types of energy markets: heat, electricity generation and transportation fuels. One basic difference between bioenergy and other renewable forms of energy is that in the bioenergy, the primary resource must be produced and/or collected, with its corresponding cost, while for the other systems, the “fuel” is available for free.


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)


Below the estimated global biomass energy potential expected from 2020 and 2050:

Year forecast

World potential


2 Billion TOE/y


4,2 Billion TOE/y


10,4 Billion TOE/y

Below the estimated global biomass energy potential and land availability expected from 2020 and 2050:

Land management

Now (Billion ha)

2050 (Billion ha)

Total Crop Land


2.65  (9,3 Billion people)

Forest Natural + managed Land



Pasture  &  grass land



Others (desert, palude…)



Fuel Cost for Electricity generation – a key driver for bioenergy


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

 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.