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Global bioenergy resources

Abstract

Using biomass to provide energy services is a strategically important option for increasing the global uptake of renewable energy. Yet the practicalities of accelerating deployment are mired in controversy over the potential resource conflicts that might occur, particularly over land, water and biodiversity conservation. This calls into question whether policies to promote bioenergy are justified. Here we examine the assumptions on which global bioenergy resource estimates are predicated. We find that there is a disjunct between the evidence that global bioenergy studies can provide and policymakers' desire for estimates that can straightforwardly guide policy targets. We highlight the need for bottom-up assessments informed by empirical studies, experimentation and cross-disciplinary learning to better inform the policy debate.

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Figure 1: Estimates for the contribution of energy crops, wastes and forest biomass to future energy supply.
Figure 2: Essential preconditions for increasing levels of biomass production.
Figure 3: The range of yield and land area estimates included in global energy crop scenarios.

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Acknowledgements

We thank our steering group for their comments and insights: G. Hammond, G. Berndes, R. Arnold, J-F. Dallemand, D. Eggar, K. Jaggard, A. Nevill, S. Tooze, D. Turley, K. White and M. Workman. We are grateful to the UK Energy Research Centre, UK Department for Energy and Climate Change, and UK Committee on Climate Change whose support made this work possible. This paper is a contribution to Imperial College's Grand Challenges in Ecosystems and the Environment initiative.

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R.S. Designed and planned the work, undertook the analysis and wrote the manuscript. A.B. and R.G. contributed to the design, drafting and review.

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Correspondence to Raphael Slade.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Tables S1–S4

Summary of global biomass potential estimates less than 100EJ (PDF 481 kb)

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Slade, R., Bauen, A. & Gross, R. Global bioenergy resources. Nature Clim Change 4, 99–105 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2097

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