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Market News

 October 13, 2006
Sustainability aspects of Biomass energy

 Geneva, Switzerland -- The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has produced a brief that outlines the sustainability issues associated with biomass: i.e. its carbon neutrality; its use in heat and power generation and in biofuels; and its future.

Biomass, the oldest form of renewable energy, has been used for thousands of years. Its relative share of use has declined with the emergence of fossil fuels to some 13% of the world's primary energy supply worldwide.

With environmental effects such as climate change coming to the forefront, people everywhere are rediscovering the advantages of biomass. Potential benefits include:
  • Reducing carbon emissions if managed (produced, transported, used) in a sustainable manner;
  • Enhancing energy security by diversifying energy sources and utilizing local sources;
  • Providing additional revenues for the agricultural and forestry sectors;
  • Reducing waste.
Similar to other energy alternatives, biomass is not a "silver bullet" solution. Independently, it cannot satisfy all the energy challenges, particularly energy security and climate change. But it belongs in a group of alternative energy sources, which, if applied together, ensures that the energy sector is moving towards sustainability.

In addition, it is the incremental volume from the renewable supplies that could ease a tight supply/demand balance for gasoline and provide an alternative fuel during a potential gasoline curtailment.

Further research and development efforts and their resulting technology developments are necessary in order to achieve additional cost and GHG reductions. The main limitation of biomass is its availability and how broadly it could be used as an energy source.

Another WBCSD report, Pathways to 2050 (PDF), indicates that by 2050, the share of biofuels in the road transport mix could reach 15%, up from the current 1%. It also estimates that biomass is likely to be used more intensively in power generation in the near future. In line with these indications, several countries, including Brazil, Canada, the USA, and EU member states, have adopted policies to raise the usage of biomass and biofuels in their existing energy mix.

The Biomass brief can be found here.