New WBA Factsheet: Global biomass potential towards 2035

Download the full factsheet here.

The World Bioenergy Association (WBA) is pleased to announce the release of the factsheet ‘Global biomass potential towards 2035’ – the ninth in the series of publications. This comes at the opportune time when world leaders are developing new renewable energy targets based on the climate agreement at COP21 in Paris in December 2015. For the success of the Paris deal, an accelerated deployment of all renewable energy sources should take place including wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and bioenergy. Biomass is at present the largest renewable energy source. What can be the contribution of biomass to the global energy supply by 2035?

In this factsheet, WBA studied the realistic contribution of biomass to the global energy supply by 2035. Biomass for energy predominantly origins from 3 different sources: agriculture, forestry and waste streams. In the year 2012, the global supply of biomass was 56.2 EJ and WBA estimates that this can increase to 150 EJ by 2035. About 43% coming from agriculture (residues, by-products and energy crops), 52% from forests (wood fuel, forest residues and by-products of the forest industry) and 5% from waste streams.

Agriculture: In 2012, crops used for both food and for bioenergy include: sugarcane, corn, sugar beets, cereals, canola, oil palm, jatropha soybean, sorghum and sorghum. Plants only used for bioenergy or material purposes are: energy grasses, miscanthus, switchgrass and short rotation coppices. For agriculture, the energy output can be estimated with 26 – 34 EJ per year. Worldwide, corn, wheat, rice, sugar cane and soybean offer the biggest potential of residues. A systematic use of these by-products offers a potential of 30 – 38 EJ.

Forests: In 2012, 85% of all the biomass used for energy originated from forests or trees. Wood is by far the most important source for bioenergy. Wood for energy comprises different categories: wood fuel, charcoal, wood chips, pellets, bark, saw dust, recycled wood, black liquor and other residues of the forest harvest and the wood industry. The future potential of wood for energy depends on three aspects: (1) A better use and management of existing forests, (2) The better use of the by-products or residues of trees in non-forest areas for bioenergy instead of dumping a huge share of this material as it is done in many parts of the world today, and (3) The planting of new forests in order to compensate for the losses of forest in some regions, to increase the global forest area again and use part of this additional production for energy. 23 – 35 EJ of woody biomass can be supplied if these three conditions are fulfilled adding up to 72 – 84 EJ from woody biomass.

Waste: The organic fraction of waste streams can be used for energy purposes. Typical feedstock for energy generation from waste can be seen as: organic fraction of landfills, sewage sludge, municipal solid waste (MSW), organic fraction of agroindustry waste and unused food. The potential of the global waste streams for energy is estimated with 6 – 10 EJ.

This net potential of 150 EJ by 2035 can only be used if a wide range of government support policies promotes the sustainable production and efficient use of biomass for energy. Better protection of agricultural land, improving soil quality, increasing yields, protection of biodiversity and responsible use of water are key criteria for agriculture in general and also for bioenergy deployment.

The support programs have to be stable, reliable and specific for each region and country adapted to the regional needs and biomass resources.

As a WBA speaker puts it: “The PARIS agreement requires a rapid replacement of fossil fuels by renewables. Bioenergy together will all other Renewables could contribute about 50% of the global energy supply by 2035. The factsheet explains in detail the potential of the different bioenergy sources”

Download the full factsheet here.

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