11 February 2010 - Second-generation biofuels produced from agricultural- and forestry residues can play a crucial role in the transport sector without competing with food production, finds a new study by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The study, Sustainable Production of Second-Generation Biofuels – Potential and Perspectives in Major Economies and Developing Countries presented today at the Berlin OECD centre, was financed and supported by the Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) on behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Co-Operation and Development. Focusing in particular on the opportunities and risks of this technology for emerging and developing countries, it finds that there is considerable potential for sustainable second-generation biofuels. In 2030, 10 percent of the global agricultural and forestry residues could provide roughly 50% of the biofuel demand forecast in the IEA World Energy Outlook 2009 450 Scenario which looks at what needs to be done in the energy sector to cut CO2 emissions and keep the global temperature rise to around 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
At the launch in Berlin, Didier Houssin, IEA Director of Energy Markets and Security, underlined the important role of second-generation biofuels to reduce CO2 emissions in the transport sector. He highlighted that many first-generation biofuels, which are based on grains and other agricultural commodities, are increasingly questioned due to low profitability, only minimal lifecycle emission savings and negative impact on global food prices. “For this reason, it is increasingly understood that first-generation biofuels have only a limited potential to provide sustainable fuels, and that a switch to more efficient technologies is needed,” said Mr. Houssin. “If second-generation biofuels are produced from agricultural or forestry residues, the problems related to first-generation biofuel production can be avoided, creating a win-win-situation for farmers.”
To mobilise the potential for second-generation biofuels, emerging and developing countries need to be involved, since a large share of global residues is produced in these countries. “The production of second-generation biofuels offers great opportunities for the agricultural sector in these countries,” said Mike Enskat, GTZ Programme coordinator for Energy. However, the mistakes in the production of first-generation biofuels must not be repeated.”
Dr. Paolo Frankl, Head of the IEA Renewables Division, highlighted the role of large emerging countries like Brazil, China and India, which have both feedstock potential and the necessary infrastructure to undertake technology development and deployment. “Less developed countries will first need to invest in agricultural production and infrastructure in order to promote rural development, which will help these countries to significantly improve the framework conditions for the production of second-generation biofuels,” he said. “This way, these countries can profit from the new industry, once technical and economic barriers have been overcome,” Dr. Frankl concluded.