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The future of biofuels: IEA highlights bioenergy growth

22/10/2019

As renewable energy continues its growth around the world, bioenergy will play an increasingly important role in decarbonizing transport, according to a new IEA report released this week.

Even as the role of electrification is set to increase in transport, the IEA said, biofuels will still represent the overwhelming majority of renewable energy.

“Biofuels currently represent some 90% of renewable energy in transport and their use is set to increase by 25% over the next five years,” the IEA report states. “Despite the rapid expansion of electric vehicles, renewable electricity only accounts for one-tenth of renewable energy consumption in transport in 2024.”

However, the IEA notes, most of the growth in biofuels will be outside of Europe, in markets such as Brazil and China where governments have made policy decisions that stimulate biofuel production as a way to boost renewables and domestic economies.

The report also says that advanced biofuels will play a larger role in transport in the coming years, but adds that even in an accelerated scenario, “novel advanced biofuels would only account for 2% of total biofuel production in 2024, as the high risk of investing in commercial-scale refineries using first-of-a-kind technologies, in addition to currently high production costs, hampers growth.”

That, too, highlights the need for EU Member States to move swiftly to implement the Renewable Energy Directive II in order to foster investors’ confidence in advanced biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol, and for the EU as a whole to promote biofuels policies that encourage innovation and GHG reduction performance, thereby valorizing current investments in sustainable crop-based biofuels such as renewable ethanol.

Read more about how the EU and its Member States can increase their ability to meet renewables targets here.