In the twenty-first century, modern bioenergy could become one of the largest sources of energy, partially replacing fossil fuels and contributing to climate change mitigation. Agricultural and forestry biomass residues form an inexpensive bioenergy feedstock with low greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, if harvested sustainably. We analysed quantities of biomass residues supplied for energy and their sensitivities in harmonised bioenergy demand scenarios across eight integrated assessment models (IAMs) and compared them with literature-estimated residue availability.
IAM results vary substantially, at both global and regional scales, but suggest that residues could meet 7–50% of bioenergy demand towards 2050, and 2–30% towards 2100, in a scenario with 300 EJ/year of exogenous bioenergy demand towards 2100. When considering mean literature-estimated availability, residues could provide around 55 EJ/year by 2050. Inter-model differences primarily arise from model structure, assumptions, and the representation of agriculture and forestry.
Despite these differences, drivers of residues supplied and underlying cost dynamics are largely similar across models. Higher bioenergy demand or biomass prices increase the quantity of residues supplied for energy, though their effects level off as residues become depleted. GHG emission pricing and land protection can increase the costs of using land for lignocellulosic bioenergy crop cultivation, which increases residue use at the expense of lignocellulosic bioenergy crops.
In most IAMs and scenarios, supplied residues in 2050 are within literature-estimated residue availability, but outliers and sustainability concerns warrant further exploration. We conclude that residues can cost-competitively play an important role in the twenty-first century bioenergy supply, though uncertainties remain concerning (regional) forestry and agricultural production and resulting residue supply potentials.