Top 5 facts about biofuels from the new IEA report


The latest International Energy Agency “Technology Roadmap” is full of news about the importance of bioenergy, which the IEA predicts will account for 17% of final global energy demand in 2060, compared with 4.5% in 2015 based on their 2 degree Celsius scenario (2DS). The agency also said that biofuels like renewable ethanol are essential to a low-carbon future.

Here are 5 facts extracted from the Technology Roadmap that might surprise you:

  1. Ethanol production supports energy security and food security: Conventional fuel ethanol production will have a continuing role where production costs are low and where the strongest GHG reductions can be provided, according to the IEA. In addition, domestically produced fuel ethanol supports energy security, the coproduction of high-protein animal feed products and agricultural employment.
  2. Higher ethanol blends reduce emissions: The agency notes that higher blends of ethanol are among several best performing solutions suitable for immediate scale-up that would help to meet the 2DS requirements. Increasing the ethanol content in the fuel blends would maximise GHG emissions reduction compared with fossil fuels.. According to the report, ethanol consumption at high levels is a key enabler for cellulosic ethanol market access by facilitating suitable vehicle fleets and fuel distribution infrastructure.
  3. Bioenergy and food supply go hand-in-hand: In 2008 and 2009, concerns were raised when a period of strong increases in global biofuel production coincided with increasing food prices. However, subsequent analysis showed that many factors (including high energy prices and market speculation) contributed to these increases, with bioenergy being only one factor in a complicated picture. There is an increasing understanding that bioenergy is not in itself either good or bad for food security, as the IEA, the Committee on World Food Security and the FAO recognize that there can be important synergies.
  4. Tomorrow’s technology depends on today’s policies: A favourable enabling policy environment for bioenergy, as for other renewable technologies, needs a long-term stable policy and regulatory framework that provides certainty about the market for an extended period (10 to 15 years), sufficient to justify investment in a series of production plants. In other words, for biofuels to thrive we need policies that help support current investments in renewable technology.
  5. Biorefineries are vital to the circular economy: Biorefining is one of the key enabling technologies of a circular economy, closing loops for biomass raw materials. Bioeconomy integrates the production, efficient use and reuse of renewable resources, in particular renewable carbon. Bioenergy – fuels, power and heat – are often considered an important part of a sustainable bioeconomy.

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