According to several projections and a preliminary analysis of the Renewable Energy Action Plans presented by the member states to the European Commission, bioenergy in its several different forms is going to constitute the backbone of the renewable energy share for European countries.
policies must be based on robust science; however the complexity and commercial importance of the subject means that policy-makers receive often contradictory information, sometimes of questionable technical quality. The BioS action
Technological flexibility, diversification of resources and recovery of “unused” material make bioenergy a renewable source of energy potentially very attractive for the European union energy mix. Indeed, Bioenergy will play a crucial role in meeting the 20 % target for renewables by 2020 and GHG emissions reduction in the EU-27. Biomass is expected to contribute to around two-thirds of the renewable energy share in 2020 according to recent PRIMES projections (SEC(2009)503 final). About 236 Mtoe of biomass can be theoretically available in 2020 and 295 Mtoe by 2030 in the EU while the EREC EU Technology Roadmap estimates that biomass can contribute by 175.5 Mtoe to the primary energy supply, covering 12.7-13.9% of total final energy consumption.
In order to fully exploit such an interesting potential even beyond 2020, bioenergy R&D is currently focusing on three main challenges:
- Sustainability: The overall sustainability of bioenergy production chains must be evaluated carefully also by means of complete life cycle analysis in order to verify their actual advantages in terms of GHG savings, fossil fuels substitution and other parameters. A special care has to be devoted to indirect and less immediate drawbacks of bioenergy production, like market shocks, side effects on water availability or indirect Land Use change.
- Availability: biomass is a low density RES needing large amounts of land, a commodity expecting to become more and more scarce in next decades because of the growing competition with settling food, feed and other RES. An appropriate assessment of the biomass resources, which takes into account various environmental constraints and competitive uses, is the key issue. The logistics related to high biomass volumes required (transport, storage requirements) are crucial for the operation of bioenergy plants.
- Feasibility: The cost competitiveness of bioenergy production technologies remains a key barrier in the further deployment of biomass as a profitable energy source. A fast move in the direction of demonstration projects at a relevant industrial scale, which are costly but crucial for improving and certifying technical performance and to achieve cost reduction is required.
The BioS Action has provided for several years a strong scientific contribution on several aspects of these challenging problems: as an example, as far as sustainability is concerned the Well-To-Wheels (WTW) study, maintained by the action, is recognised as one of the main existing references for energy balance, greenhouse-gas balance and costs of alternative fuels (including biofuels). In last years the sustainability assessment approach developed by the action in the case of biofuels has resulted in a very important contribution to the TF Biofuels Work Programme.
For biomass availability and resource assessment, at least two reference studies were performed by BioS on the use of cereals straw resources and other agriculture residuals for bioenergy production in the European Union.
Finally, from a more systemic point of view, the BioS Action has often supported the deployment of the EC legislation on Renewable Energies and is currently committed in providing a comparative analysis of the Renewable energy Action Plans submitted by the member states. Furthermore, the action is also involved in the SET-Plan and its related initiatives (e.g., SETIS and EIBI) and continuously participating the international debate through the participation to several committee and working groups (e.g. IEA Bioenergy Task on feedstock).
The objectives and deliverables for 2011 will continue the previous research pathways while trying to organize the knowledge developed insofar, especially in the field of biomass availability in a quantitative systemic framework.
|Summary of the activity
1. Greenhouse gas performance and general sustainability of biofuels production and use.
The Action will take care of updating the biofuels aspects of the Well-to-Tank part of the reputed JEC WTW study, inserting improvements in the existing pathways (especially the second-generation biofuels routes), and improving the coverage of new biofuels pathways. The activity is mainly performed in the frame of an Administrative Arrangement with DG ENER and the BioS action is closely following the major scientific developments in order to provide high quality inputs.
Still in the frame of GHG savings from biofuels, the expert consultation froreseen in the EUrocLIMA competitive project will complement the WTW approach with a focus on latin American situation in full continuation with traditional BIoS reseach line on the effects of biofuels policies on tropical and developing countries.
Apart from the GHG savings, other sustainability issues related to biofules are investigated, continuing the successful relevant work performed by BioS action in recent years: (indirect) land use change and its uncertainties, fertilizer application, water resources use, certification schemes, etc. The specific issues to be addressed are gathered to the BioS action by the TF- Biofuels and agreed with the other actions involved in order to avoid duplication of efforts and to integrate complementary competencies.
Partners: CONCAWE, EUCAR, Biofuels and other trade associations, IES-Transport and Air Quality Unit (Tank to Wheel part of JEC Well to Wheel study), DG-ENER, DG-AIDCO, European certification schemes,
2. Setting up of a framework for a quantitative assessment of biomass resources in the European Union, including cost-related elements
The action has recently produced several research works on biomass potential assessment and costs related to raw material collection and processing. These works have focussed on some kinds of biomass (mainly agricultural and wood residuals) in some European areas or with a national resolution.
Building on this expertise, and following methodologies already known in the literature, the BioS action will develop first prototype of a European database on biomass availability and its potential contribution to the energy mix. Elements of costs will be also associated to different biomass sources in order to provide a first hint on the present and future competitiveness of biomass energy sources in the general energy market.
In 2011 the work will be initiated, spatial resolution decided and the first sectors will be investigated starting form the ones for which expertise are already present in the Action. A preliminary methodological investigation on economical costs associated to biomass for energy production and collection will be also prepared.
Partners: DG-ENER, ENEA, BEE consortium, Oeko-Institute, Politecnico di Milano.
3. Evaluation of present state and future perspectives of bioenergy deployment in the European Union and the rest of the world.
The BioS action has a solid tradition in supporting different initiatives of the Commission and other international bodies on the bioenergy theme and this activity is expected to continue in 2011 too.
As for the support to the Commission policies, the BioS action will continue to exploit its competence in bioenergy facts in the SET-Plan JRC working group and for the related European Industrial Biomass Initiative. Moreover, as a follow up of the analysis of the Renewable Energy Action Plans, the action will focus on specific topics in order to assess the research needs for a better exploitation of bioenergy potentials. In 2011 the specific problem of the integration of biogas into the existing transmission network is expected to be investigated, in close cooperation with the SOS action
Furthermore, the BioS action has recently joined the Task Force 43 of the IEA "BioEnergy" initiative as an observer and in 2011 the action is expected to become a full member of the TF providing relevant inputs to the deployment of its 2010-2012 Work Programme.
Partners: DG-ENER, SET-Plan WG, EIBI, IEA, IE-SOS action, IE-CleanCab action, IE- ESE Unit