Authors and contributors
Pharoah Le Feuvre
IEA (2019), "Tracking Power", IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/tracking-power-2019
In 2018, bioenergy power generation increased an estimated 8%, maintaining average growth rates since 2011. In the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS), electricity generation from bioenergy increases 6% annually through 2030 as it takes air pollutant constraints into account.
Bioenergy tracking status rose from ‘needs improvement’ to ‘on track’ this year. Several policy and market developments in China contributed significantly to this status change.
For instance, China introduced a new clean-heat initiative that is expected to increase deployment of biomass- and waste-fuelled co‑generation plants. The highest deployment is anticipated in areas with access to biomass resources and policies to phase out coal boilers to improve air quality.
Energy-from-waste (EfW) deployment is also growing strongly as increasing urbanisation and economic development leads to more municipal solid waste (MSW) production. EfW technology offers a solution superior to landfills for cities to manage MSW, and China has the highest installed EfW capacity globally.
In addition, China is promoting the use of agricultural residues for bioenergy (as an alternative to uncontrolled in-field burning that deteriorates air quality); both EfW and solid biomass-based electricity generation receive feed-in tariff support. Plus, it has announced a pilot for coal power stations to begin co-firing biomass.
In Brazil, the federal RenovaBio plan, due to come into force in 2020, will boost the production of transport biofuels and in turn will result in additional bagasse-based electricity generation from both existing facilities and new mills.
Mexico and Turkey also show signs of expanding bioenergy deployment, especially for EfW and biogas.
Bioenergy generation costs need to be considered along with its dispatchability and potential to support wider policy objectives such as rural development, best-practice waste management and supply security.
How the auction framework accounts for flexible generation potential and socio-economic benefits will therefore be crucial in shaping bioenergy deployment.
Higher levels of waste collection and sorting are essential to provide a basis for EfW utilisation. In Europe, countries with policies that discourage sending waste to landfills, such as landfill bans or taxation, have had higher EfW development.
EfW should be employed only in accordance with the wider waste management hierarchy, which categorises waste management options based on which are best from an environmental perspective and advises that reuse and recycling of materials should be undertaken prior to energy recovery.
Robust sustainability frameworks are key to bioenergy growth. Only bioenergy that reduces lifecycle GHG emissions while avoiding unacceptable social, environmental and economic impacts can contribute to energy system decarbonisation. Robust sustainability governance and enforcement must therefore be a central pillar of any bioenergy support policy.