Sustainability of bioenergy – Mapping the risks & benefits to inform future bioenergy systems


Bioenergy is widely included in energy strategies for its GHG mitigation potential. Bioenergy technologies will likely have to be deployed at scale to meet decarbonisation targets, and consequently biomass will have to be increasingly grown/mobilised. Sustainability risks associated with bioenergy may intensify with increasing deployment and where feedstocks are sourced through international trade. This research applies the Bioeconomy Sustainability Indicator Model (BSIM) to map and analyse the performance of bioenergy across 126 sustainability issues, evaluating 16 bioenergy case studies that reflect the breadth of biomass resources, technologies, energy vectors and bio-products. The research finds common trends in sustainability performance across projects that can inform bioenergy policy and decision making. Potential sustainability benefits are identified for People (jobs, skills, income, energy access); for Development (economy, energy, land utilisation); for Natural Systems (soil, heavy metals), and; for Climate Change (emissions, fuels). Also, consistent trends of sustainability risks where focus is required to ensure the viability of bioenergy projects, including for infrastructure, feedstock mobilisation, techno-economics and carbon stocks. Emission mitigation may be a primary objective for bioenergy, this research finds bioenergy projects can provide potential benefits far beyond emissions - there is an argument for supporting projects based on the ecosystem services and/or economic stimulation they may deliver. Also given the broad dynamics and characteristics of bioenergy projects, a rigid approach of assessing sustainability may be incompatible. Awarding ‘credit’ across a broader range of sustainability indicators in addition to requiring minimum performances in key areas, may be more effective at ensuring bioenergy sustainability.

Publication DOI:
Divisions: College of Engineering & Physical Sciences > School of Infrastructure and Sustainable Engineering > Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry
College of Engineering & Physical Sciences
College of Engineering & Physical Sciences > Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute (EBRI)
Funding Information: 1) The authors thank EPSRC , BBSRC and UK Supergen Bioenergy Hub (EP/S000771/1) who funded time to complete this research; 2) Dr. R. Holland was supported as part of the UK Energy Research Centre research programme. Funded by the UK Research and Innovatio
Additional Information: Copyright © 2023 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Uncontrolled Keywords: Biomass,Indicators,Modelling,Policy,Sustainable,Trends,Forestry,Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment,Agronomy and Crop Science,Waste Management and Disposal
Publication ISSN: 1873-2909
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 07:29
Date Deposited: 30 Aug 2023 15:42
Full Text Link:
Related URLs: https://www.sci ... 961953423002180 (Publisher URL)
http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2023-10
Published Online Date: 2023-08-16
Accepted Date: 2023-08-04
Authors: Welfle, Andrew James
Almena, Alberto
Arshad, Muhammad Naveed
Banks, Scott William (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-4291-2572)
Butnar, Isabela
Chong, Katie Jane (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-3800-8302)
Cooper, Samuel J.G.
Daly, Helen
Garcia Freites, Samira
Güleç, Fatih
Hardacre, Christopher
Holland, Robert
Lan, Lan
Lee, Chai Siah
Robertson, Peter
Rowe, Rebecca
Shepherd, Anita
Skillen, Nathan
Tedesco, Silvia
Thornley, Patricia (ORCID Profile 0000-0003-0783-2179)
Verdía Barbará, Pedro
Watson, Ian
Williams, Orla Sioned Aine
Röder, Mirjam (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-8021-3078)



Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

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