Report: Global bioenergy sector to grow at ‘steady pace’

The global bioenergy sector is growing at a steady pace, reveals the 3rd Global Bioenergy Statistics report by the World Bioenergy Association (WBA).

In the year 2013, global biomass supply increased to 57.7 exajoules (EJ), accounting for 10% of the global energy supply.

In terms of final energy consumption, the bioenergy use increased by 1.23 EJ – a modest increase of 0.05% over the past year – and the share of bioenergy in final energy was 13.9%.

The share of renewables was steady at 18.3%, with renewables contribution in electricity at 22%, and the slow pace of growth is unsettling, WBA says in the report.

The highest renewable share was in direct heat at 28% while in derived heat the share was only 7%. In the transportation sector, renewables contributed only 2.5% in 2013.

Bioenergy is the third largest renewable electricity generating source, while in the sectors of direct heat, derived heat, and transport sector, bioenergy was the largest renewable energy source. 

Global agriculture area has decreased by 0.53% since 2000, and WBA says increasing yields is crucial for both food and fuel production.

Increasing global yields for maize, rice, and wheat has reduced land demand by 570 million ha, and if average yields of these crops in Africa were the same as the global average, the demand for land could be reduced by half. 

Agriculture residues have a potential of generating 17 EJ to 128 EJ.

The forestry sector is the largest supplier of biomass, but forestry areas have globally diminished by 1.23% since 2000. The 28 EU countries, on the other hand, have increased their forestry area by 3.62%.

Fuelwood and charcoal contributed 68% and 10% to the total biomass supply, and forest residues have a potential of generating 4.6 EJ to 7.6 EJ.

Waste generated 1.3 EJ of energy in year 2013 predominantly in Europe, but according to WBA there is a significant lack of updated data on global waste generation.

Alternate sectors

In addition to the biomass sectors, in 2013 59 billion m3 of biogas was produced, 45% of the total coming from EU countries.

Pellet production increased to 26.4 million tonnes in 2014, while charcoal is listed as an often underestimated sector with 52 million tonnes of global production in 2014 – twice as much as pellets. 

8.1 million jobs were generated by the renewable energy industry, with the bioenergy sector employing 3.7 million or 45.7% of the total. 

Bioenergy ‘major contributor’

The bioenergy sector is growing at a steady pace, with particularly rapid growth in the pellet and biofuel industries sector.

Charcoal production is marked as “highly underestimated” and WBA calls for it be produced more sustainably in the supply chain.

According to the report, sustainable forestry practices in countries like Sweden and Finland should be considered for replication in other parts of the world, as there is great potential in using agricultural and forestry residues for energy generation.

There is still a significant lack of updated and reliable data for bioenergy, but the sector is projected to continue to be a major contributor to the global energy mix and part of the solution for a future sustainable society.

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