Modern Bioenergy Leads Growth of All Renewables to 2023: IEA Forecast

October 18, 2018

A multinational agency with the mission of ensuring reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 30 member-countries and beyond says modern bioenergy will have the biggest growth among renewable energy resources between 2018 and 2023. The projections underscore the critical role of fuel, thermal and power resources in building a robust renewable portfolio and ensuring a more secure and sustainable energy system.

According to the latest market forecast from the International Energy Agency’s (IEA), bioenergy is the “overlooked giant” of the renewable energy field. IEA officials say bioenergy, which includes transportation biofuels and biomass-fueled power, make up some 50 percent of total renewable energy consumption, as much as hydro, wind, solar and all other renewables combined.

Bioenergy will lead the growth in renewable energy consumption over the five-year forecast period, according to Renewables 2018. Around 30 percent of the growth in renewables consumption is expected to come from modern bioenergy in the form of solid, liquid and gaseous fuel due to bioenergy’s considerable use in heat production and its growing consumption in transport. The report notes that in 2023, modern bioenergy will remain the primary source of renewable energy.

Established in the framework of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis, the IEA is a globally prominent organization that reaffirms the role of bioenergy. Long promoted by Solutions from the Land’s (SfL) renewable energy advocacy platform – 25x’25 – bioenergy is a mainstay in our call for agricultural measures to avoid carbon emissions.

IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said when the report was released earlier this month that his organization expects modern bioenergy will continue to lead the field, and has huge prospects for further growth. But, he cautions, “the right policies and rigorous sustainability regulations will be essential to meet its full potential.”

The EIA says that even with a wide variety of renewable energy technologies becoming increasingly competitive, appropriate policies and market design are critical. Under an accelerated case laid out by the agency – one that assumes greater supportive government measures – the expansion of renewables in electricity and in transport could be 25 percent higher.

With the more favorable market and policy conditions assumed under the accelerated case, global transport biofuel output could be 25 percent higher. Stronger implementation of blending mandates would boost ethanol production by over 20 percent, with Brazil, China and the United States making the greatest contributions. Biodiesel and renewable diesel output could climb more than 30 percent, mainly in Brazil, India and many Southeast Asian nations. Novel advanced biofuel technologies that use non-food crops, wastes and residues for feedstocks could expand by two-thirds, assuming a higher proportion of announced projects become operational.

Bioenergy policy enhancements being pursued here in the United States include a proposal to lift the nationwide ban on the sale of E15 (15 percent ethanol blend gasoline) during summer months (a restriction imposed on what has been proven to be unfounded air quality concerns). The White House is now expected to formally propose a rule in February to lift the ban.

Another policy avenue at hand is the administration’s consideration of fuel economy standards for autos and light trucks that could provide a pathway for higher-octane, low-carbon fuels with higher ethanol blends that could meet the fuel efficiency and clean air goals targeted by the standards. Also worth noting is appropriations legislation passed by this Congress that formally recognizes biomass as carbon neutral, a designation that should facilitate greater use of forest trimmings and residues to produce heat, fuel and power.

Solutions from the Land urges its partners, stakeholders and anyone engaged in the effort to bring about a reduction of the carbon emissions generated by fossil fuels to 1) read the IEA summary for policy makers and 2) reach out to lawmakers and regulators at all levels and promote the kinds of strategies the report offers to further enhance the role of bioenergy in curbing changes to our climate.

Editor’s note: National Bioenergy Day 2018 is set for next Wednesday, Oct. 24, when organizations across the country that support bioenergy will open their doors to their communities to demonstrate the many benefits that bioenergy provides on the local level. For more on events in your area, click HERE.

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