Bioenergy is considered an important component within the European Union (EU) energy transition to meet mid-century climate targets. Model assessments that have highlighted the role of bioenergy in decarbonising EU energy systems fail to account for the fact that mitigation strategies and bioenergy supply take place within a global decarbonisation effort. Thus, they do not account for inter-regional competition for the resource base that Europe may face. This study shows how bioenergy can contribute to EU climate targets, highlighting its possible role within the energy system and developments required to facilitate its scale-up.
We use the global integrated assessment model IMAGE 3.2 to project bioenergy demand, sectoral deployment, feedstock, and inter-regional import for Europe to 2050. Employing a global model allows for projections of EU decarbonisation strategies consistent with global climate targets and captures the effects of biomass production and consumption in other world regions.
Bioenergy is projected to account for up to 27% of total primary energy demand, increasing from the current 5EJ to 18EJ/yr. To match this demand, the model projects imports of biomass to increase from 4% of its current supply to 60%. Bioenergy could provide up to 1GtCO2 or 40% of the overall mitigation needed by the EU in 2050. This is based on large-scale use for power production, with the transport, industry and buildings sectors getting smaller shares. By 2050 it is projected that 55% of total EU bioenergy use is coupled with Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Bioenergy supply comes primarily for agricultural and forestry residues, as these sources have low upstream greenhouse gas emissions. However, as demand increases, energy crops are increasingly used, especially in the provision of advanced liquid fuels.
The results show that one route for achieving an EU energy transition is based on rapid deployment of BECCS and the mobilisation of sustainable imports of second-generation feedstocks.