Bioenergy — Realizing the Potential

Modern bioenergy has gained increased attention in the past decade. Not only does bioenergy provide an effective option for the provision of energy services from the technical point of view, but it is also based on resources that can be utilized on a sustainable basis all around the globe. In addition, the benefits accrued go beyond energy provision, creating unique opportunities for regional development.

Obviously, the potential of deriving energy services from biomass is no novelty, and many countries, including Sweden, have come a long way in developing bioenergy systems. Still, it is not until more recently that the understanding about the far reach of bioenergy options has come to a turning point, and efforts to promote bioenergy started to be made in a more concerted form at a global level. Today, biomass is seen as one of the most promising renewable sources of modern energy services in the medium term.

In fact, studies about the global biomass potential have multiplied in the past years, contributing significantly to the recognition of the merits of bioenergy beyond expert fora. Markets for bioenergy-related products have grown fast, denoting changes on the demand side, and increasing business interest in the area. This motivates new questions, for example about the need to standardize bioenergy products. It requires renewed attention from other industries that also depend on biomass resources, and demands new types of policies to promote bioenergy which are sensitive to the interests of various industries.

Thus the challenges around bioenergy are many. The development of bioenergy systems with the reliability required of modern energy systems involves sustainable natural resource management, sophisticated organization schemes, and proper market strategies under competitive energy markets. Despite the progress attained in many countries, these challenges should not be underestimated particularly when a broad use of bioenergy is contemplated, not least in less developed countries where energy needs are still very large.

This discussion on potential and challenges has motivated the International Workshop on Biomass Potential and Utilization in Europe and Developing Countries,

held in Eskilstuna a couple of years ago, and organized by the Swedish Energy Agency in collaboration with the Swedish International Development Assistance Agency. On that occasion, the Swedish experience served as a starting point for discussing bioenergy solutions for heat and power in particular. However, the success of that meeting lay not only in the interest shown to Swedish solutions but,

most of all, also in the variety of contributions and possible solutions that were presented, which emphasized once more the large spectrum of the bioenergy options available for further exploration.

The workshop in Eskilstuna should be seen as part of a range of activities that envisage the promotion of bioenergy utilization. The objective was not to make a comprehensive review of initiatives or to rank them in any particular fashion but to discuss models, opportunities and difficulties that need to be addressed. This publication compiles some of the contributions brought to Eskilstuna, reproducing questions and solutions discussed. We hope that the book will serve as a source of information and inspiration to policy makers, financiers, developers and companies that are in the position to explore bioenergy as a new business in their sphere of activities.

The information provided here offers a starting point for understanding the complexities involved in deploying biomass energy options but, most of all, it serves as a channel to communicate that effective solutions are possible and are being implemented at various scales and under different social, economic and technical conditions. It should be seen as a discussion forum for evaluating existing options and discussing relevant policies and measures that will shape bioenergy utilization in Europe and other regions of the world, as well as to provide ideas for the direction that research should take to support the deployment of bioenergy.

Lars Tegner

Director of Development Swedish Energy Agency

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