22 November 2018
IEA Renewables Market Forecast Highlights the Role of Bioenergy for the Energy Transition
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The IEA's 2018 market forecast for renewable energy focuses on the role of bioenergy for the expansion of renewable energy until 2023.

Energy derived from renewable biomass currently provides half of all global renewable energy sources and will drive renewable energy growth until 2023, the report finds.

All renewable energy sources combined are expected to account for 40% of global energy growth until 2023.

8 October 2018: The International Energy Agency (IEA) released a report titled, ‘Renewables 2018 Market Analysis and Forecast Report,’ concerning the growth of renewables to ensure a more secure and sustainable energy system. The market forecast finds that modern bioenergy derived from biomass will drive the growth of renewable energy until 2023.

IEA defines bioenergy as energy generated from the conversion of solid, liquid, and gaseous products derived from biomass that is available on a renewable basis. According to the report, bioenergy constitutes about half of all renewable energy today, equivalent to hydro, wind, solar, and all other renewables combined.

“Bioenergy is an overlooked giant in the renewable energy field.” – Fatih Birol, IEA Executive Director

In 2017, renewable energy (RE) capacity additions reached a record of 178 GW. Solar PV capacity is expected to grow by 600 GW until the end of the forecast period in 2023. The analysis finds that the US and India follow China in a growing market for solar PV. Despite its importance, bioenergy is rarely emphasized in discussions on renewable energy. Bioenergy plays a stronger role in the heat and transport sectors than wind and PV solar technology. Bioenergy is also important for the cement, sugar, and ethanol industries. Because of its importance, IEA’s Executive Director Fatih Birol’s stated that bioenergy is an, “overlooked giant of the renewable energy field.”

The report examines the role of bioenergy in the power, heat, and transport sectors. Regarding the power sector, it finds that developments in China will lead to continued growth in hydropower and bioenergy. In the heating sector, the share of renewables is expected to grow from 10% in 2017 to 20% in 2023 with bioenergy contributing the largest share. The report states that targets and policies for renewables are essential, noting that fewer countries have policies for renewable heat than for electricity and transport. The document further finds that of the three sectors, transport has the lowest penetration of renewables, projecting that renewable electricity in transport will increase by two-thirds by 2030. Regarding biofuels in transport, IEA states that “fuel ethanol makes up two-thirds of biofuel production growth, and biodiesel and hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) provide the remainder.”

In the next five years, renewables are expected to cover up to 40% of global energy consumption growth. The electricity sector has seen the most use of renewables, and in 2023 renewable energy sources will provide one third of global electricity generation. The report finds, however that renewable energy use in the heat and transport sectors are experiencing far less growth than solar and wind energy, due to insufficient policy support and additional barriers to deployment.

Regarding bioenergy in the transport sector, the analysis notes that biofuel production is expected to increase by 15% to 165 billion liters per year by the end of the forecast period. Biofuels are expected to provide 90% of total renewable energy sources used in transport in 2023.

In the heating sector, the share of renewable heat consumption is expected to grow 10% in 2018 to 12% in 2023. Innovating bioenergy with rigorous sustainable regulations could increase this figure, the authors suggest.

On other types of renewable energy sources, the report shows that “wind remains the second-largest contributor to renewable capacity growth.” The analysis compares renewable energy growth rates across countries finding that China and Brazil are leading the global community. In China, renewable energy expansion is supported by policies aimed at decarbonizing energy provision and reducing air pollution. China is predicted to surpass the EU in renewable energy capacity by 2023. Brazil has the highest share of renewables from hydro power and bioenergy.

The focus on bioenergy in this year’s renewables forecast is part of IEA’s efforts to identify “blind spots” in the global energy debate. IEA addresses issues that are important for the development of the global energy system but receive little attention in the public debate. [IEA Press Release] [Publication: Market Report Series: Renewables 2018] [Report Summary and Highlights]

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