Is biofuel the key to the global carbon emission reduction?

Bioenergy has an important role to play in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Replacing traditional fuels, biofuels can reduce motor vehicles’ CO2 emissions by 70%. But is it feasible in the face of the current global trends?

One of the alternative energies is bioenergy – energy generated from agricultural waste (crop and livestock), forestry, as well as from the organic part of industrial and household waste. So, biofuel is obtained from the processing of rapeseed, soybean, sugarcane or corn stalks, etc.

There are several types of biofuel: liquid (methanol, ethanol, biodiesel), gaseous (hydrogen, liquefied petroleum gas) and solid (firewood, straw) biofuels.

For a long time, biofuel was considered to be not competitive enough compared to petroleum products because of their efficiency and usability. But biological raw material’ processing technologies are constantly being improved, eliminating these shortcomings.

In addition to generating electricity and heating energy, bioenergy also solves a set of important issues, including organics recycling and pollution reduction.

The role of bioenergy in the global transition to renewable energy

Over the last decade, electricity has been replacing energy sources such as oil, coal, and gas. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the share of electricity in final use was 19% in 2016. The electricity supplied from renewables is planned to increase up to 49% by 2050. While in 2016 renewable energy consumption was 24%, in 2050 it is expected to reach 86%.

Source: IRENA

Bioenergy has a decisive role in the global switch to renewable energy. Three years ago, bioenergy final use grown up to 5% and must grow up to 16% in 2050. The bioenergy demand is expected to grow up to 125 EJ by 2050. More than a third of these resources will be used for electricity generation, another 27% – for transport, and 23% – for industry’ thermal energy.

Source: IRENA

Bioenergy will help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Now transport sector represents around 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The use of biofuel will reduce it by 70%. Besides environmental protection, biofuel is important for aviation and marine transport, moreover, there is no need in significant changes in the design of engines and equipment for switching to liquid fuel.

Forecasts say that liquid biofuel would reach 652 billion liters in 2050 (ethanol – 366 billion liters, biodiesel – 188 billion liters, aviation biofuels – 105 billion liters and biomethane – 13 billion square meters). For comparison, consumption made up only 129 billion liters in 2016.

Barriers in using low-carbon fuel

Transition to the renewable energy requires significant financial incentives in the bioenergy sector. In 2006-2007, annual global investments exceeded USD 20 billion, but since 2008 the global biofuel investing show a declining trend.

The most important difficulty relates to lack of stable regulation, including mandates and subsidies. The main issues for the investors are also as follows: efficiency of processing, amount of capital investments, availability and cost of financing, technological risks, operational reliability.

The ways of promoting the biotechnology development

If modern biofuel is a key player in reducing carbon emissions by 2050, both technology’ development and investments should be encouraged. It’s necessary to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and implement carbon pricing to reduce the cost gap between the traditional fuels and biofuels. In addition, adopting a robust long-term supporting policy for 1st- and 2nd-generation biofuels producers, giving financial incentives and providing assurance for manufactures and investors.

The implementation of this plan will help to make the biofuel an important force in the development of low-carbon transport and to achieve global targets for reducing toxic emissions in the atmosphere.

Source: materials of IB Centre from the SEF KYIV2019 Forum

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