Does the bioenergy boom endanger the environment?
More than 100 participants from 25 countries around the world spent two days in Leipzig enjoying the extensive scientific programme of the Workshop "Biomass for energy - lessons from the Bioenergy Boom" (24th to 25th November 2014).
In six engaging sessions, 25 distinguished international experts presented their latest research findings. Many lively discussions were had, both in the sessions and out, regarding cutting edge developments in modelling and understanding the interactions among bioenergy production, the environment and society. Aspects discussed ranged from the impacts of bioenergy crops on water bodies, soils and biodiversity, to impacts and challenges in the political, legal and societal fields, as well as to the challenges in the system integration and in the evaluation of potential environmental impacts at a regional scale.
One general outcome from the expert discussions was that in most cases, there was a high degree of site dependency relating to the applied management practice and associated environmental effects. In general, there is no “one solution fits all”. Another observation was that critical points along the provision chain need more attention – focusing on best practice for main effects, especially from resource provision, i.e. water scarcity in arid regions or soil quality of marginal land.
Knowledge transfer and communication for practical implementation was also seen as a critical bottle neck, despite the range of scientific literature and studies outlining potential sustainability options. One of the key reasons for this is related to sustainable management approaches being less economic as conventional intensive systems and therefore, need financial and political support. The extension of sustainability indicators, which already exist for liquid biofuels, to a wider range of biomass was seen as a promising next step.
The workshop was part of the UFZ-IP EnergyLandUse and organised by the Department of Bioenergy of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in cooperation with Deutsches Biomasseforschungszentrum (DBFZ) in Leipzig, Germany.
Future energy demand requires renewable energy sources produced in a social and environmental friendly way at a reasonable cost. At present, bioenergy is the most important renewable energy source holding a great potential for further development. The complex inter-linkages amongst the landscape, energy demand, society and policy-making presents a great challenge of establishing a sustainable system with minimized negative side-effects.
The aim of this workshop was to discuss the state of the art developments for the understanding of the interactions among bioenergy, environment and society at different levels and areas: from the impacts of bioenergy crops on water bodies, soils and biodiversity, to impacts and challenges in the political, legal and societal fields, as well as to the challenges in the system integration and in the evaluation of potential environmental impacts at a regional scale.
The workshop featured the presentation of keynote lectures followed by 6 parallel sessions on environmental effects and social-political challenges in parallel, including:
- Effects of energy crop cultivation on watercourses, soil functions, land-use, biodiversity and ecosystem services
- Flexible (bio-) power - The future for biomass in the energy system?
- Biomass to biofuels - policy, markets, effects
- Regional & spatial LCA's for biomass resources
The sessions were be composed of presentations of original research based on some guiding questions as framework. At the end of each session a panel of experts engaged with the audience in further discussion of the topic and generate a synthesis.