Projections of the availability and cost of residues from agriculture and forestry

09-06-2015 | Publication

By-products of agricultural and forestry processes, known as residues, may act as a primary source of renewable energy. Studies assessing the availability of this resource so far offer few insights on the drivers and constraints of the available potential, the associated costs and how the availability may vary across scenarios. This study projects long-term global supply curves of the available potential by using consistent scenarios of agriculture and forestry production, livestock production and fuel use from a spatially explicit integrated assessment model. Particular attention is paid to the drivers and constraints.

In the projections residue production is related to agricultural and forestry production and intensification, and the limiting effect of ecological and alternative uses of residues are accounted for. In order to maintain ecological functions approximately 40% is required to remain in the field, and a further 20-30% is diverted towards alternative uses.

Crop yield improvements increase residue productivity, albeit at a lower rate. The consequent decrease in agricultural land results in a lower requirement of residues for erosion control. The theoretical potential is most sensitive to baseline projections of agriculture and forestry demand; however this does not necessarily affect the available potential which is relatively constant across scenarios.