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Bioenergy

Bioenergy accounts for roughly one-tenth of world total primary energy supply today.

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Key findings

Bioenergy use by sector and share of modern bioenergy in total final consumption in the Net Zero Scenario, 2010-2030

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Demand for bioenergy production will increase, but must be achieved sustainably

Modern bioenergy is the largest source of renewable energy globally, accounting for 55% of renewable energy and over 6% of global energy supply. The Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario sees a rapid increase in the use of bioenergy to displace fossil fuels by 2030. Use of modern bioenergy has increased on average by about 7% per year between 2010 and 2021, and is on an upward trend. More efforts are needed to accelerate modern bioenergy deployment to get on track with the Net Zero Scenario, which sees deployment increase by 10% per year between 2021 and 2030, while simultaneously ensuring that bioenergy production does not incur negative social and environmental consequences.

Meeting the Net Zero Scenario will require bioenergy production to increase, but care must be taken to ensure that doing so does not result in significant negative effects for society or the environment. In accordance with these sustainability considerations, there is no expansion of cropland for bioenergy nor conversion of existing forested land into bioenergy crop production in the Net Zero Scenario.

Global bioenergy supply in the Net Zero Scenario

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Aligning with the Net Zero Scenario will require not only increasing modern bioenergy use, but also phasing out traditional use of biomass

Total global bioenergy use in 2030 under the Net Zero Scenario is only about 20% higher than in 2021, although this by itself is quite misleading. Over 35% of the bioenergy used in 2021 was from biomass for traditional cooking methods – practices that are unsustainable, inefficient, polluting and linked to 5 million premature deaths in 2021 alone.

The use of this traditional biomass falls to zero by 2030 in the Net Zero Scenario in order to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal 7 on Affordable and Clean Energy. Modern bioenergy usage, which excludes traditional uses of biomass, nearly doubles from about 42 EJ in 2021 to 80 EJ in 2030.

Global biofuel demand by region, 2019-2026

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Biofuel demand forecast to increase 28% over the next 5 years

Following a historic decline in 2020 amid global transport disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic, total biofuel demand is on course to surpass 2019 levels in 2021. In our main case, annual global demand for biofuels is set to grow by 28% by 2026, reaching 186 billion litres. The United States leads in volume increases, but much of this growth is a rebound from the drop caused by the pandemic. Asia accounts for almost 30% of new production over the forecast period, overtaking European biofuel production by 2026. This is thanks to strong domestic policies, growing liquid fuel demand and export-driven production. Recent Indian ethanol policies and blending targets for biodiesel in Indonesia and Malaysia are responsible for most of the growth in Asia. India is set to become the third largest market for ethanol demand worldwide by 2026.

Reports

Our work

The aim of the Bioenergy TCP is to increase knowledge and understanding of bioenergy systems in order to facilitate the commercialisation and market deployment of environmentally sound, socially acceptable, and cost-competitive, low-carbon bioenergy systems and technologies, and to advise policy and industrial decision makers accordingly.