ECN publication
Bioenergy development pathways for Europe
Wit, de M.
Published by: Publication date:
ECN Policy Studies 1-9-2011
ECN report number: Document type:
ECN-O--11-069 Other
Number of pages: Full text:
219 Download PDF  

Fossil resources dominate the global energy system today which cannot be sustained indefinitely. Bioenergy use can meet a large share of future energy supply sustainably. For example, it can substitute fossil fuels including petroleum, and when sustainably produced, bioenergy avoids greenhouse gas emissions. However, with the recent increase of modern bioenergy use several drawbacks have become apparent that may lead to negative ecological impacts. Europe plays an important role in the further sustainable development of bioenergy due to its ambitious renewable energy policies and its state-of-the-art agricultural sector. The main objective of this thesis is to evaluate development pathways for bioenergy in Europe by assessing preconditions for its development, an economic outlook for such development and an assessment of its environmental implications. The technical European biomass potential has a substantial potential to contribute to Europe’s energy consumption. Energy crop production on European croplands and grasslands supplemented with agricultural and forestry residues offers an ultimate technical potential of 27.7 EJ y-1. These findings were based on the assumption that agricultural land needs for future domestic food production decrease as productivities per hectare increase. Central and Eastern Europe pose the more attractive region with relatively high potentials and low costs. In European agriculture, it is possible to combine large-scale biomass production with food production sustained at current levels, without direct or indirect land-use changes and while accomplishing significant net cumulative greenhouse gas emission reductions when both bioenergy and agricultural production are considered. To accomplish this situation two preconditions need to be met: a gradual intensification of food production and implementation of structural improvements to agricultural management. Based on the current economic performance and future prospects for feedstocks and conversion technologies for biofuel production, simulations indicate that advanced second generation biofuels may surpass first generation biofuels somewhere in the next two decades. To establish a sizeable second generation biofuels industry a sufficiently large resource base of lignocelluloses feedstocks is required. To expand beyond residues and wastes, short rotation crops form a particular interesting feedstock category, that is optimized for fast growth and high yields. Based on observed cost reductions in recent decades for the cultivation of poplar in Italy and eucalyptus in Brazil ranges in progress ratios were found of respectively 63–73% and 71–78%. Similar ratio’s may apply to willow production in Europe. To expand biomass production responsibly in Europe policy makers and the agricultural sector face the challenge to stimulate efficient bioenergy applications and rationalize agriculture sustainably, e.g. by deployment of sustainability criteria. Integration of bioenergy production in the existing agriculture can realize strong synergy between a sustainable energy supply and the environment. This pleas for an integral European vision on sustainable energy and agriculture.

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