Twin project CEUBIOM

CEUBIOM, the "twin project" of BEE, works on classification of European biomass potential for bioenergy using terrestrial and earth observations.

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Methods for Biomass Resource Assessments

Existing biomass resource assessments use a broad variety of approaches, methodologies, assumptions and datasets that lead to different estimates of future biomass potentials.

A database of circa 250 bioenergy potential assessments was compiled, out of which 28 studies were selected for detailed analysis. The 28 studies were chosen so that they, among others, cover the variability found in the literature with respect to the type of biomass, the type of bioenergy potential and the approach and the methodology.

Table A shows the categorisation of the approaches and methodologies that are distinguished in this study. Each approach and methodology has specific (dis)advantages, which are summarised in Table B.

Table A. An overview of the combinations of approaches and methodologies that are used in existing biomass energy assessments to investigate different types of biomass potentials.   

General approach

General methodology

Type of biomass potential

Theoretical-technical

Economic-implementation

Resource-focussed

Statistical analysis

Yes

No

Resource-focussed

Spatially explicit analysis

Yes

No

Demand-driven

Cost-supply analysis

Noa

Yes

Demand-driven

Energy-economics and energy-system model analysis

No

Yes

Integrated assessment modelling

Integrated assessment model analysis

Yesb

Yesb

a Some demand-driven cost-supply analysis start with a statistical analysis or spatially explicit analysis of technical biomass energy potentials, although this is not the key focus of these studies.

b Some demand-driven energy-economics and energy-system model analysis use the results of cost-supply analysis.

c IAMs typically focus on the economic and/or implementation potential, although IAMs are also used for the theoretical and/or technical biomass energy potential

                           

Table B. The advantages and disadvantages of different methodologies used in existing biomass resource assessments.   

Methodology

Disadvantages

Advantages

Statistical analysis

No economic mechanisms, no spatially explicit information, no integration, based on crude assumptions, sometimes inaccurate

Simple, transparent, cheap, data are easily available

 

Spatially explicit analysis

No economic mechanisms, no integration, complex tool

Spatially explicit, transparent, based on data on land use and climate, soil characteristics

Cost-supply analysis

No economic mechanisms, no integration

Cheap, transparent

Energy-economics /energy-system model analysis

No integration with other markets (agricultural markets), not spatially explicit, no integration, no validation based on bottom-up data on land use and climate, soil characteristics, untransparent

Economics mechanisms are included

Integrated assessment model analysis

Complex, untransparent, expensive, results are difficult to interpret, model is user unfriendly, level of details is limited

Integrated/consistent, spatially explicit

 

 

In theory, an integrated assessment model would be best suited to include all different aspects and facets of sustainability of biomass energy production, including all relevant feedback mechanisms as well as synergies and trade-offs. Integrated assessment models thereby allow for the use of multi-dimensional scenarios, whereby a large variety of assumptions on the different parameters (population growth, economic growth, food consumption, environmental policies, trade patterns etc.) are consistent. Integrated assessment models combine bottom up data on land use and productivity with energy models and agricultural economics models. As such, integrated assessment models provide an appropriate framework to estimate the potential of biomass energy, the impacts on agricultural markets and food security, greenhouse gas emissions and land use. An important handicap is the complexity of these models, which makes these models relatively non-transparent, expensive to develop and user unfriendly in operation.

Furthermore, the analysis also shows that sustainability aspects are inadequately taken into account in existing biomass potential assessments. There is no study that includes all three dimensions of sustainability (environmental, social, and economic) nor is there a study that covers all relevant aspects of one dimension. Generally, environmental factors are overrepresented whereas social and economic aspects are taken into account far less frequently.

For climate change similar conclusions can be drawn. The impacts of land use changes are (potentially) crucial due to the direct and indirect changes in above and below ground biomass and soil organic matter. These are, however, uncertain. Ideally, these direct and indirect changes in land use are assessed using models that include a land use component.

 

Related project reports

Methods & Data Sources for Biomass Resource Assessments for Energy (D4.5 & D4.6)