Wednesday, May 11, 2011

UK Committee on Climate Change reviewing bioenergy

The UK Committee on Climate Change published its Renewable Energy Review on Monday, see press release:
In respect of biofuels for transport, the press release includes the recommendation:
Given sustainability concerns (e.g. the tension between use of land for growth of biofuels feedstocks and food) a cautious approach to the use of biofuels in surface transport is appropriate. Pursuing alternatives to decarbonising transport – electrification and improved efficiency – is therefore an urgent priority.  
The report's Chapter 4 on "renewable transport" at notes on its final page:

3. Next steps: the Committee's bioenergy review

Our approach to the use of biofuels in surface transport and bioenergy more

generally (e.g. in aviation, industry, power) reflects significant uncertainties

relating to key drivers of sustainable bioenergy availability, and to the best use

of available biofuels:

Demographics and socio-economic changes. Growth in population and

increased income resulting in changed diet will, without major advances in

productivity, significantly increase the demand for land to grow food.

Agricultural productivity improvement. Although pressures on land may be

eased through agricultural productivity improvement, it is not clear to what

extent this will be feasible without increasing carbon intensity (e.g. increased

fertiliser application) or breakthrough technologies (e.g. genetically

modified crops).

Available land. The combination of uncertainties around demographic and

socio-economic changes and agricultural productivity results in significant

uncertainty around residual land available for growth of bioenergy feedstocks.

This is more pronounced given lack of evidence about currently unused land,

and the extent to which this could be used in agricultural or bioenergy

feedstock production.

New technologies. Although there is the possibility of new technologies for

bioenergy feedstocks which do not require land that could potentially be used

in agriculture (e.g. algae), these would require technology breakthroughs and

therefore remain highly uncertain.

Best use of bioenergy. Given limited available sustainable bioenergy,

this should be best used in sectors where there are limited alternatives for

decarbonisation. However, further evidence is required to better understand

whether scarce bioenergy should be used in aviation, industry, niche surface

transport markets, etc.

In our bioenergy review, to be published before the end of 2011, we will

develop scenarios for key drivers (e.g. dietary change, agricultural productivity

improvement, residual land available for growth of bioenergy feedstocks) and

assess best use of available bioenergy across sectors. In the meantime, we use the

biofuels scenarios in this chapter as the basis for economy-wide renewable energy

scenarios set out in Chapter 5.

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Biofuels are a wide range of fuels which are in some way derived from biomass.

Your idea?