With reference to the work and experiences of all analysis and assessments performed as part of the Biomass Energy Europe project, general recommendations regarding future bioenergy assessments and development of methodology and data are presented with a focus on the need to achieve reliable and harmonised, i.e. comparable, potential assessments of the sustainable implementation potential of biomass for energy utilisation both on national and EU level.
New bioenergy assessments at EU and national level
Given the high relevance of bioenergy for the European Community, there is a strong and urgent need for new and comprehensive studies at the national and EU level that fully address, in an integrated manner, the sustainable implementation potential. National level studies would, at the same time, assist future updates of the National Renewable Energy Action Plans. For both types of studies a solid description of methods, data sources and recommendations exist within the BEE Methods and Data Sources Handbook.
These urgently needed new studies at national and EU level should specifically consider:
- All land use sectors and uses for biomass (i.e. energy, food, feed and material uses) in an integrated manner, taking into account both global and local dynamics
- All three pillars of sustainability should be covered: (i) environment, (ii) society and (iii) economy,
- Economic and implementation potentials
- New and improved data as they become available
Due to their importance for climate mitigation and energy policy, both EU and national level bioenergy assessments should be:
- Regularly updated
- Comparable amongst each other
- Interlilnked with each other (e.g. EU level studies could use results or interim results from national level studies)
It is therefore recommended to establish permanent links between entities working on national and EU level assessments in a dedicated network. The BEE Methods Handbook could serve as a baseline for such a network and get the status of a reference work for biomass resource assessment methods.
Recommendations for methodology development
From our analyses it is quite clear that integrated assessments are needed, especially when striving to assess the sustainable implementation potential. Key advantages with integrated assessments are that the multitude of interlinkages, correlations and parameters affecting the biomass potential may be captured in a single modelling framework. Furthermore sustainability criteria can be taken into consideration, including feedback mechanisms that allow reproduction of the complexity of sustainability in a more realistic way.
Six important areas have been identified for the development of a methodology for estimating bioenergy potential:
- Integrated modelling of biomass potential and use;
- Advanced integration of remote sensing and earth observation data;
- Improved methodology for estimating net climate benefits of bioenergy;
- Improved methodology for estimating the environmental effects of intensive and large-scale bioenergy systems;
- Increased understanding of the social acceptance of large-scale bioenergy systems;
- Increased understanding of conflicts between different goals for bioenergy use.
Since climate change mitigation is a major justification for promoting bioenergy there is an obvious need to accurately assess the net greenhouse gas mitigation benefits of bioenergy in biomass resource assessments. Therefore there is need for further:
- Development of standardised methods for calculating CO2 avoidance in biomass resource assessments;
- Development of a framework for verification of CO2 avoidance;
- Development of methods and data to include direct land-use change (dLUC), includign changes in soil carbon levels;
- Development of methods and data to include also indirect land-use change (iLUC) both inside and outside the EU.
Research is needed for greater understanding of the interlinkages between climate change, land-use and land-use change, biodiversity and the consequences thereof for bioenergy production.
In addition to methodology development in the field of integrated assessments and net greenhouse gas mitigation benefits, there are a number of further recommendations from this project that should be emphasized. These include the need to:
- Develop methodologies which can be used to increase the understanding of conflicts between different goals for biomass use, i.e. climate change mitigation, energy security, rural development, etc.
- Assess to what extent large-scale bioenergy production will affect food security and nutrition for poor people
- Assess to what extent large-scale bioenergy systems will affect small-scale farmers
- Assess to what degree an increased production of biomass for energy on agricultural cropland is socially acceptable
- Assess to what degree an increased mobilization of forest biomass is socially acceptable.
Recommendations for data development
There is a strong need for further development of data for biomass resource assessments, as well as data on current biomass use, to facilitate the identification of biomass resources still available for energy. Three levels of data development needs have been identified:
- Data assessing the current production and use of biomass and bioenergy;
- Data needed to perform assessments of the current and future potential of biomass for energy;
- Data & data development pertaining to Earth Observation (EO) techniques.
Three overarching areas of data pertaining to biomass and bioenergy need to be augmented and improved:
- Supply: including forestry, agriculture and organic waste and biomass processing industries;
- Demand: including the main demanding sectors, i.e. heat and power generation (both domestic and large scale), saw mills and the pulp and paper industry and biofuel production;
- Trade: including imports and exports of all kinds of biomass and biofuels.
In addition to these major recommendations, a large range of more specific recommendations are presented in the Executive Summary, Evaluation and Recommendations report and in other reports of this project, especially in the BEE Methods Handbook (see WP5).
Related project reports