Energy from biomass: The size of the global resource

A debate has been raging about the role biomass could play in the future energy system: some say it could play a major role in fuelling the planet, others argue it risks an environmental disaster.

To get to the heart of the controversy, UKERC researchers at Imperial College London have undertaken the first systematic review of the evidence base.

The report, which reviews more than 90 global studies, suggests that up to one fifth of global energy could be provided by biomass (plants) without damaging food production.

It finds that the main reason scientists disagree is that they make different assumptions about population, diet, and land use. A particularly important bone of contention is the speed with which productivity improvements in food and energy crop production can be rolled out.

Report and supporting material

For further information, to speak to any of the report authors, or to request a hard copy of the report please contact Dr Matthew Aylott, Communications Officer at UKERC on m.aylott@ukerc.ac.uk or 020 7594 1573. 

Journal Articles

Slade, R., Gross, R. Bauen, A. (2011) Estimating bio-energy resource potentials to 2050: learning from experience, Energy and Environmental Science, (4), pp 2645-2657

Slade, R., Bauen, A., Gross, R. (2014) Global bioenergy resources, Nature Climate Change (4) pp 99-105

Supporting papers

To inform the scope of the full study described above, and provide timely information to assist DECC in the development of bioenergy route maps, promised under the UK’s 2009 Low Carbon Transition Plan, DECC invited the UKERC TPA team to produce two working papers during the course of the project:

Working paper 1: 'The UK bioenergy resource base to 2050: estimates, assumptions, and uncertainties',  reviews existing estimates of the UK resource base and identifies the most important assumptions and uncertainties. 

Working Paper 2, 'Prioritising the best use of biomass resources: conceptualising trade-offs', is concerned with measuring the performance of bioenergy systems and their sensitivity to the system boundaries imposed.

The TPA approach to these working papers is set out in the following working paper scoping note.