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2009 September 22

IEA Bioenergy Review: Bioenergy a third of global primary energy supply in 2050

Bioenergy could sustainably contribute between a quarter and a third of global primary energy supply in 2050. It is the only renewable source that can replace fossil fuels in all energy markets – in the production of heat, electricity, and fuels for transport.

IEA Bioenergy have recently published an executive summary on it's report "Bioenergy – a Sustainable and Reliable Energy Source". The key messages in the report are:

Bioenergy is already making a substantial contribution to meeting global energy demand. This contribution can be expanded very significantly in the future, providing greenhouse gas savings and other environmental benefits, as well as contributing to energy security, improving trade balances, providing opportunities for social and economic development in rural communities, and improving the management of resources and wastes.

Many bioenergy routes can be used to convert a range of raw biomass feedstocks into a final energy product. Technologies for producing heat and power from biomass are already well-developed and fully commercialised, as are 1st generation routes to biofuels for transport. A wide range of additional conversion technologies are under development, offering prospects of improved efficiencies, lower costs and improved environmental performance.

However, expansion of bioenergy also poses some challenges. The potential competition for land and for raw material with other biomass uses must be carefully managed. The productivity of food and biomass feedstocks needs to be increased by improved agricultural practices. Bioenergy must become increasingly competitive with other energy sources. Logistics and infrastructure issues must be addressed, and there is need for further technological innovation leading to more efficient and cleaner conversion of a more diverse range of feedstocks. Further work on these issues is essential so that policies can focus on encouraging sustainable routes and provide confidence to policy makers and the public at large.

Download the Executive Summary here.