Estimating the environmentally compatible bioenergy potential from agriculture

Dec 2007

In 2005/2006 the European Environment Agency carried out a modelling exercise to estimate the bioenergy potential in the agriculture, forest and waste sectors that could be considered 'environmentally compatible' (EEA, 2006b).  
It supplements the technical explanations of the modelling assumptions and calculations with three different aspects:
• background information on environmental pressures from agriculture that explain the environmental assumptions made;
• examples and information on environmentally compatible modelling approaches; and
• discussion of policy measures that are important for achieving the environmentally compatible future on which the modelling assumptions are built.
The analysis presented here indicates key environmental aspects that should be looked at when increasing bioenergy production on farmland.
It also gives an indication of how much agricultural biomass production is potentially available without harming the environment and without counteracting current and potential future EU environmental policies and objectives. As the assessment focuses on a consistent approach for the whole of Europe, it has not been possible to take account of local circumstances, pressures and possible solutions. Thus, the assumptions and the approach used in this study require further analysis and complementary assessments on a more regional and local scale. In addition, this study does not consider the potential environmental effects of biomass production outside Europe as this option falls outside the modelling framework adopted.
The report discusses in a limited way the policies and measures necessary for this potential to be realised. What needs to be pointed out is that a substantial use of agricultural biomass below this potential is not necessarily environmentally-compatible. Unless the correct incentives and safeguards are in place, even a significantly lower exploitation of the biomass resource could lead to increased environmental pressures.

By: European Environment Agency

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