EUBCE opened view on the role biomass can play in a low carbon economy

Discussion group at EUBCE 2016 (Foto: ETA-Florence Renewable Energies)

Amsterdam — The 24th European Biomass Conference and Exhibition in Amsterdam has provided a unique overview of the state of play of the sector and a much clearer view than before of the role biomass can play in achieving the transition to a low carbon economy.

Scientific evidence indicates that 730 Gt (billion tonnes) out of the 1,000 Gt of carbon budget available to keep global temperatures below this threshold were already consumed, therefore the time left to put in place effective measures is limited. Low carbon solutions are needed that deliver now and the sustainable use of biomass is undoubtedly included. Bioenergy itself can provide 10 – 30 pervcent of all total CO2 emission reductions needed and this should be achieved by putting bioenergy in the integrated context of the bio-based economy, in order to maximize the efficiency of how we use this resource, to produce renewable energy, food and materials.

A careful review of the available scientific literature indicates that mobilizing one billion dry tons of ligno-cellulosic biomass by 2030 in Europe is possible and this can be done sustainably. This would mean doubling the current use of biomass and would be sufficient to meet the expected demand both for carbon neutral fuels and materials, without competing with food production. Unsustainable displacement of food and loss of forest cover can be readily avoided by means of higher resource efficiency in agriculture, livestock management and by restoration of degraded lands.

After decades of continuous research and technological development, a number of large scale demonstration plants is proving that biomass can be effectively converted into energy, advanced biofuels and bio-based products. Recognizing the value of those good examples is fundamental to build the consensus needed for finally setting a clear, stable European policy framework, which is still lacking, but is essential to enable the widespread development of the bio-based economy. The attention of policy makers and media has been focussed too much on possible negative effects of bioenergy. Attention needs to shift to the positive results that the bio-based economy can deliver in achieving the low carbon economy.

This conference demonstrated that there are high level talents working on these issues, said Prof. André Faaij, conference general chairman in his concluding remarks. It is now about how do we link all this good work to the right arena. Now we need to ensure close interplay and engagement of the research community, the industry and the governance arena. I would like to call upon all the key players in the field, especially international bodies such as UN, FAO, IRENA, IEA and EC to organize the debate and to give it the focus it needs to solve the problems to progress, he said. He also launched the idea to form a coalition among the GBEP, the Global Environment Facility, the European Commission and the Energy Coalition of the world billionaires, to discuss how to support a series of large scale demonstrations of sustainable biomass production in different settings, integrating biorefineries, BECCS (bioenergy with carbon capture and storage), and bio-chemicals.

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Source: ETA-Florence Renewable Energies