Australia’s Bioenergy Roadmap is out. Designed to help inform future policy and investment decisions, the roadmap sets out a vision for a sustainable bioenergy industry that delivers lower emissions, regional growth, energy resilience and waste management benefits for Australia.
So, what does it mean for us?
The benefits for Australia
According to the roadmap, by the start of the next decade, Australia’s bioenergy sector could:
• contribute to around $10 billion in extra GDP per annum
• create 26,200 new jobs
• reduce emissions by approximately 9 per cent
• divert an extra 6 per cent of waste from landfill, and
• enhance our fuel security.
But it doesn’t end there.
Bioenergy for hard to abate sectors
As we transition to net-zero, some critical sectors of the economy will struggle to cut emissions. Renewable industrial heat generation, aviation and renewable gas grid injection are such areas that could benefit from bioenergy solutions.
According to modelling conducted for inclusion in the roadmap, progress in these sectors by the 2030s would see:
• Bioenergy provide up to 244 PJ per annum of renewable industrial heat, with widespread commercial deployment, representing approximately 33 per cent of the total market
• Early deployment of pre-commercial sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production plants to establish a viable Australian-based industry, with production of up to 1,908 ML per annum of SAF – representing approximately 18 per cent of the aviation fuel market
• Gas pipelines produce up to 105 PJ per annum of renewable gas, comparable with low emission hydrogen, accounting for 23 per cent of the total pipeline gas market.
Complementing other low emissions alternatives
As well as supporting hard-to-abate industries, bioenergy can also work in tandem with non-standard fuels to further accelerate emissions reduction in sectors that are already incorporating sustainable solutions into their energy mix. The bioenergy roadmap specifically targets road transport and electricity markets as areas of opportunity for bioenergy to accelerate net-zero transitions over the coming years.
Modelling suggests progress in these sectors by 2030s would see:
• Up to 2,605 ML per annum of road transport biofuels produced for local consumption, accounting for 7 per cent of the total road transport fuel market.
• Deployment of 14 TWh per annum of utility-scale and small-scale electricity generation, demonstrating the value of dispatchability from bioenergy-derived electricity, which would make up 8 per cent of the total utility-scale and small-scale electricity generation market.
Developing resources and building ecosystems for rapid growth
While Australia has significant bioenergy potential, more clarity and detail over the sustainability or durability of future projects is needed. By the 2030s, significant progress must be made in the sector to improve knowledge sharing, build and mature local industry hubs, strengthen commercial development and communicate the advantages of bioenergy to end-users.
Additional investment and research are also needed to enable the industry to understand and utilise all potential feedstocks. Modelling suggests if improvements in these areas are made by the 2030s, progress from the sector would see:
• Up to 559 PJ per annum generated from bioenergy in total, reflecting greater utilisation of existing resources and potential for new sustainable resources.
• Deployment of bioenergy within precincts reflecting mature business models and complementary use alongside other low emissions energy technologies.
Bioenergy’s potential contribution by 2030 and 2050
Bioenergy could result in economic benefits for Australia, with forecasts suggesting the sector could bring in $10billion and 26,000 jobs by the 2030s and $16billion and 35,300 jobs by the 2050s. Regarding emissions reduction, estimates suggest bioenergy could cut emissions by as much as 9 per cent by the 2030s and a further per cent by the 2050s.
The strengthening of Australia’s bioenergy sector could also improve Australia’s fuel security, reducing the country’s reliance on fossil fuels and imported oil and petroleum products.
Another important by-product of a robust bioenergy sector could see the utilisation of wastes and residues as feedstock. This is something that Verdant Earth Technologies is already planning at its proposed facility in the Hunter Valley. Using wastes and residues as feedstock can reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills by creating value for what would otherwise be an end-of-life product. This supports the global movement towards a circular economy – whereby we rethink how we categorise waste in order to reduce emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels.
With targeted funding, investment, and knowledge-sharing pathways, Australia could cut emissions, stimulate the economy, and create value for waste products. There is huge potential for bioenergy, but it will require decisive planning and confident execution.