A new report by Bioenergy Australia has identified a significant bioenergy opportunity for Australia, that could see $3.5-$5 billion in investment.
The first state-of-the-nation assessment of the sector identifies Australia’s significant bioenergy opportunity, including big investment for regional economies, and provides a criteria for kick-starting Australia’s bioenergy economy.
Bioenergy Australia CEO Shahana McKenzie said the report reviewed the policies of states and territories in order to share learning and facilitate policy transfer across Australia, with much to be gained through adoption of ‘best practice’ approaches throughout Australia.
“Queensland has adopted a number of successful policies, which can be adapted and deployed to drive bioenergy uptake across the country,” Ms McKenzie said.
Bioenergy is generated from the conversion of solid and liquid biomass products for use as electricity, heat, gas, liquid fuels and bio-based products and delivers a range of benefits such as employment and economic development of rural/agricultural communities, energy security, utilisation of waste streams and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Shadow Minister for Climate and Energy Mark Butler gave a speech at the report launch welcoming the report and noting that lack of vision, policy and commitment has stifled the sector.
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Ms McKenzie explained that what differentiates Queensland as the clear leader is they have identified the energy source as an opportunity for the state and have developed a vision to capitalise on it. In addition, Queensland’s policy objectives are better defined and more aligned to the bioenergy sector compared to other states and territories.
While the Federal Government has implemented mechanisms to reduce carbon emissions, such as the Renewable Energy Target and Emissions Reduction Fund, a national vision, policy objectives and/or policy levers would unlock Australia’s bio economy, according to Bioenergy Australia.
Dr John Hewson, former Liberal party leader and bioenergy advocate also speaking at the event said, “An overlooked and very important consequence of the ‘climate wars’ in the last couple of decades has been the failure of governments to develop a comprehensive national waste and bioenergy strategy.
State and Territory overview
Report assessments were based on bioenergy performance measured against five evaluation criteria: policy development and effectiveness, bioenergy project development, technology and feedstock, sustainability guidance, advocacy and education.
The majority of the 179 commissioned bioenergy projects are in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria (77 per cent) and the main technologies comprise combustion (56 per cent) and anaerobic digestion (29 per cent). All states are lacking diversification across feedstock and technology, and most projects produce electricity as an output, which a national vision could transform.
Around the world
The report found Australia in the bottom quartile for bioenergy contribution globally, lagging behind other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries placing 19 out of 24 reviewed.
Ms McKenzie explained there were a host of global initiatives identified to inspire Australia in the report; from committed targets for renewables, to investment support and renewable heat incentives.
The report noted Sweden has a landfill ban for organic waste and the US a loan guarantees for the establishment of biorefineries.
“The global disparity in contribution we see is concerning, particularly with the ambitious targets set for emissions reduction by the marine and aviation industries,” Ms McKenzie said.
“There are massive changes ahead to the fuel mix globally and we sit well behind at four per cent of total energy consumption for biomass energy or fuel purposes versus the EU’s 10 per cent.
“There is a new industry waiting to be developed for bio-chemicals which can replace the need for fossil-fuel based derivatives entirely.
“If we don’t seize this opportunity we will be left behind and end up importing what could be made locally, with significant economic and environmental impacts.”
A recently released market analysis and forecast report by the International Energy Agency predicted modern bioenergy will, over the next five years, have the biggest increase in renewable energy consumption, driving 30 per cent of global renewable energy consumption growth.
Ms McKenzie explained as with any emerging sector, government support plays an important role in removing barriers and accelerating the development of new projects.
Read the full report on the Bioenergy Australia website.