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IEA Executive Director on bioenergy fact-finding mission in Malaysia

IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven with the Plantation Manager from Sime Darby Company. Photo copyright: IEA/OECD.

Following her participation this month at the 2012 World Gas Conference in Kuala Lumpur, IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven conducted a bioenergy fact-finding mission with visits to a palm oil plantation and a waste-to-energy power plant in Malaysia.

26 June 2012

The fact-finding mission came as the use of bionergy is poised to expand. Bioenergy might provide up to 25% of total primary energy supply by 2050, compared to 10% percent today, according to the IEA’s recently released Technology Roadmap Bioenergy for Heat and Power.

On 7 June 2012, Ms. Van der Hoeven visited the Sime Darby palm oil plantation on Carey Island. During the visit, the executive director learned about the environmental and social measures taken to improve the sustainability of palm oil production at the plantation, which is certified under the Round-Table on Sustainable Palm Oil. She posed a number of questions about the certification process, the market opportunities for certified palm oil, and also raised the issue of deforestation.

Ms. Van der Hoeven acknowledged that the visited plant is an example of progress in the right direction, but that more work is needed to expand best practices throughout the palm oil industry. She underlined the IEA’s view that robust internationally aligned sustainability certification schemes for biofuels are vital to ensure a positive environmental and social impact, and create an international market for sustainable biofuels.

Worldwide, approximately 47 million tons of palm oil were produced in 2010 – 40% of which comes from Malaysia – according to the Product Board for Margarine, Fats and Oils (MVO). More than two thirds of palm oil is used in the food sector, while industrial use such as soap accounts for around a quarter, and energy use, mainly biofuel production, for around 5% of use.

As part of her fact-finding mission, Ms. Van der Hoeven also visited a waste incineration plant run by Recycle Energy in which municipal solid waste is used to generate 9 megawatts of electricity per hour. She noted that using non-recyclable waste for energy generation is a worthwhile option that should be considered as an alternative to putting waste in a land-fill site.

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