Global bioenergy supply and demand projections. A working paper for REmap 2030

Sep 2014

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has developed a Global Renewable Energy Roadmap – called REmap 2030 – to double the share of renewables
in the global energy mix by 2030. This ambitious target is derived from the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative, which is currently chaired by the United Nations Secretary-General and the World Bank President.
REmap 2030 projects that existing and future renewable energy expansion, as currently planned, will result in a 21% share of renewables globally. This leaves a nine percentage-point gap to achieve a 30% renewable energy target in 2030, or a 15 percentage-point gap to achieve the 36% target, as indicated in the SE4All Global Tracking Report. The REmap 2030 analysis indicates that biomass would become the single most important renewable resource if all additional renewable technology options in the 26 REmap countries1 were to be implemented worldwide by 2030. Biomass would then account for 60% of global renewable energy use and would dominate all end-use sectors. Biomass would then comprise 20% of the global primary energy supply, doubling its share from 10% in 2010. In 2010, Africa and developing countries in Asia each accounted for a quarter of global biomass use while China accounted for another sixth. Developing countries use biomass mainly for cooking, industrial applications and electricity generation. The industrialised countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which accounted for a fifth of global biomass consumption in 2010, use biomass mainly for heating and electricity generation in efficient boilers and combined heat and power (CHP) plants. The trend towards modern and industrial uses of biomass is growing rapidly. However, the demand often occurs in locations geographically distant from the supply source. This results in increasingly complex production systems (e.g., feedstock supply and conversion combinations). REmap 2030 shows that biomass use worldwide could grow by 3.7% per year from 2010 to 2030 – twice as
fast as it did from 1990 to 2010 – if cost effective applications are put in place. Global biomass demand would then double from 53 exajoules (EJ) in
2010 to 108 EJ by 2030. Biomass applications will change. In 2010, about two thirds of all biomass use was in building (residential and commercial building sectors), of which more than three-quarters (half of total biomass use) was for traditional applications, such as wood-burning fires and cook stoves. By 2030, as traditional uses decline, less than a fifth of biomass use may be in buildings. Electricity generation from biomass, often combined with district heating, would grow by 10% per year to account for nearly a third of global biomass demand by 2030 – roughly triple its share in 2010. Liquid biofuels for transport would grow nearly as fast to 28% of biomass use – also tripling their 2010 share. Total demand for cooking and heating in industry and
buildings would decline to 40% by 2030, compared to its 80% share in 2010 due to growth in the transport and power sectors and substitution of traditional uses. Other recent studies also arrive at similar estimates for biomass’ share of the global renewable energy demand in 2030. Therefore, biomass would be the single most important resource to mitigate climate change. However, affordability, supply security and sustainable sourcing are major concerns. In view of the increasing importance of biomass use, estimates of its supply potential have been the focus of many studies. Different studies quantify the potential of biomass at global, regional and country level for the short- to long term. Studies take into account such factors as differing land use, water and resource availability estimates, as well as varying levels of population and economic growth to arrive at the biomass supply potential. Due to the large variation in these parameters and the different constraints assumed for the availability of resources, estimated biomass supply potentials for the year 2050 range from as low as 50 EJ/yr to technically challenging potentials as high as 1,500 EJ/yr. Considering this wide range, formulating appropriate bioenergy policies for specific countries is extremely complex. The objective of this working paper is not to add yet another data input to this already complicated prognosis. Rather, it addresses itself to a number of crucial questions in view of biomass’ large demand potential in 2030 , as well as the uncertainties concerning supply in a sustainable, affordable way and how this might be ensured. These questions are presented below:
- How much biomass is available / recoverable by 2030, taking sustainability concerns into account?
- What will be the supply cost and future price of biomass?
- How fast can biomass’ supply expand?
- What is the optimal use of biomass?
- What are the key uncertainties for biomass prospects?
- What can governments do to strengthen biomass deployment?
This working paper starts by describing, in Section2, the methodology IRENA applied to estimate the biomass supply potential and costs. It continues by presenting the current bioenergy market situation in Section 3. Section 4 compares the total biomass demand estimates according to REmap 2030 with these supply estimates. Section 5 discusses the uncertainties in realising the demand and biomass supply growth estimates between now and 2030. Section 6 discusses the biomass supply cost estimates. Section 7 outlines the sustainability issues around biomass. In view of the uncertainties in bioenergy growth and sustainability, Sections 8 and 9 identify the technology options and hedging strategies, as well as policy needs, needed to strengthen bioenergy use and supply growth. The working paper concludes with Section 10, which outlines the next steps for improving expanding the bioenergy work of IRENA based on the findings of this paper.

By: S. Nakada, D. Saygin, D. Gielen (IRENA)

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