The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has started work on the development of a new bioenergy roadmap, which it hopes will underpin the next stage of expansion of the sector in Australia.
ARENA has started the development of a new bioenergy roadmap after receiving a request of federal energy minister Angus Taylor, who hopes to use its outcomes to guide future government decisions on how it can support the bioenergy industry, including by feeding into the government’s Technology Investment Roadmap.
ENEA Consulting and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu have been engaged by ARENA to lead the development of the bioenergy roadmap, and have started public consultation on the proposed roadmap.
The roadmap will include an assessment of Australia’s economic opportunities in the bioenergy sector, determining where Australia has a competitive advantage and providing advice on potential economic and regulatory barriers impeding the growth of the sector.
The bioenergy sector has struggled to get the same foothold in the Australian energy system as been achieved by solar, wind and storage. While it is used heavily in some processes, such as sugar refining as biogas production from food and agricultural wastes, it has often been limited to use as a supplementary fuel. Examples include ethanol mixing in transport fuels and biomass mixing in thermal electricity generation.
Bioenergy has been touted as an emissions neutral fuel-source, as in theory, the greenhouse gas emissions produced from the burning of biofuels has previously been captured during its production. The emissions benefits of bioenergy are generally greatest when using waste sources as an input, particularly those that allow the capture and destruction of methane.
ARENA has provided $118 million in funding to support the development of bioenergy technologies, including biofuel production from algae, and several waste-to-energy projects.
ARENA CEO Darren Miller said that the agency would use the assessment to gauge the current status of the bioenergy industry in Australia and to develop a plan for how the sector can be supported by governments.
“The development of the Bioenergy Roadmap presents an opportunity to allow industry leaders, researchers and the public to provide insight into the current state of bioenergy in Australia and how best we can grow the sector in the future,” Miller said.
Miller confirmed that the government will soon be releasing the Technology Investment Roadmap for consultation, which ARENA has assisted in preparing and is understood to have been delivered to energy minister Angus Taylor, but has yet to be released publicly.
“It will also be an important input into the Australian Government’s Technology Investment Roadmap which will be released for public consultation soon,” Miller added.
Federal energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor welcomed the announcement of the bioenergy roadmap work, saying that the sector has a role to play in diversifying Australia’s renewable energy supplies, while also providing the potential to strengthen Australia’s fuel security.
“Bioenergy has the potential to grow as a future energy source in Australia, providing dispatchable energy while at the same time improving our fuel security and playing a role in reducing emissions,” Minister Taylor said.
“With the appropriate settings and pathways, the bioenergy sector can provide many benefits for Australia such as safeguarding soil and water quality and making productive use of waste resources. Significantly, a strong bioenergy industry can also help to support our local farmers and bring more economic growth for regional areas.”
Last week, Taylor announced that Australia would purchase almost $100 million in oil, to boost Australia’s fuel reserves. However, the plan has attracted criticism, with the oil set to be stored in the United States, rather than being stored within Australia.
ARENA has invited submissions from relevant stakeholders to the bioenergy roadmap, which will be open until 27 May. Submissions can be made via the ARENA website.
ENEA and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu also expect to run a series of workshops to collect input from industry stakeholders.
The bioenergy roadmap is expected to be delivered to the federal energy minister in the second half of 2020.
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