Modern bioenergy ‘key’ for meeting Paris targets, report states

The scaling up of renewable energy production needs to be drastically accelerated if the world is to meet the decarbonisation and climate change mitigation goals set out in the Paris agreements, according to a report from the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Published earlier this month, IRENA’s Global Energy Transformation: A Roadmap to 2050 argues that the combination of renewables and increased energy efficiency can provide over 90% of the necessary energy-related CO2 reductions.

Although questioning the future prospects of biomass produced from the combustion of wood, animal waste and charcoal, the report also calls for greater focus on the likes of anaerobic digestion, liquid biofuels and wood pellet based heating systems, which it claims could provide ‘key’ energy solutions.

The report compares a Reference Case – a scenario based on current and planned policies of countries, with the REmap Case, which analyses a scenario where low-carbon technologies and renewables are deployed to transform the global energy system and keep global temperature rises to below 2°C of preindustrial levels by the end of the century.

Further information on the REmap approach and methodology is available here.


Bioenergy’s role in the future energy mix

Significantly, the REmap case shows that the balance of the renewable energy mix needs to change to achieve the Paris climate goals. Specifically, it calls for a shift in emphasis away from bioenergy and towards wind and solar.

“The renewable energy mix would change, from one dominated by bioenergy to one in which over half of renewable energy would be solar and wind-based. Bioenergy would continue to account for about one-third of renewable consumption by 2050,” the report states.

In January, a report from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, found that wood, other solid fuels and renewable wastes accounted for 44.7% of renewables production in 2016, comfortably making them the most significant renewable source in the EU. However, the report also noted that the rate of increase in these sources of power had been much slower than for wind and solar.   


Modern bioenergy a ‘key’ solution

Crucially, the new IRENA study makes a strong case for the role ‘modern bioenergy’ will have to play. IRENA defines modern bioenergy as biogas produced through anaerobic digestion of residues, wood pellet heating systems, liquid biofuels produced from bagasse and other plants, and biorefineries.

“Although more modern bioenergy has been used in recent years, its growth is insufficient to support the requirements of the energy transition,” the report states.

“A much stronger and concerted effort is needed, particularly in sectors (shipping, aviation and various industrial applications) for which bioenergy could provide key solutions. Bioenergy will have to be sourced from sustainable and affordable feedstocks.”

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