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Commentary: Plotting a path for greater bioenergy use

Plotting a path for biofuel, the International Energy Agency’s new “Technology Roadmap: Delivering Sustainable Bioenergy” provides the technology milestones and policy actions needed to unlock the potential of bioenergy in line with a long-term low-carbon and sustainable global energy mix.

The following commentary was written by Adam Brown and Paolo Frankl.

The recent discussions on renewable energy are mostly focused on the rapid growth of wind and solar deployment and their impressive drop in cost. While these developments are remarkable, they also overshadow what remains the most important source of renewable energy today – bioenergy.

One unique feature of bioenergy compared to other renewable energy technologies is how it can provide low-carbon transport fuels, electricity, and heat for industry and buildings. Its contribution to final energy demand is five times higher than wind and solar PV combined, even when inefficient and unsustainable traditional biomass, such as the use of wood and dung for cooking, is excluded.

But bioenergy is a complex subject, with many possible feedstocks, conversion processes and energy applications. It has strong ties to the agriculture, forestry and waste management sectors, and its prospects are linked to the growth of a broader bio-economy. It can also be a controversial topic, though there is a growing recognition that only bioenergy supplied and used in a sustainable manner can play a role in a low carbon energy future.

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