Bioenergy gathers pace

Oil palm plantation in Indonesia- Photo by Ryan Woo/CIFOR

Oil palm plantation in Indonesia- Photo by Ryan Woo/CIFOR

As part of efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and thus mitigate climate change, the use of bioenergy is gathering pace around the world. Countries’ desire to become less energy-dependent in the face of rising petroleum prices, as well as innovations in technology, are further speeding up the adoption of alternatives to fossil fuels.

A session at the 18th UN Climate Change Conference in Doha last December brought together bioenergy experts to discuss trends and best practices in bioenergy development. Ravi Prabhu, Deputy Director-General for Research at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), said the bioenergy discussion must extend to finding models that are pro-poor and that foster sustainable development, particularly in rural areas.

“Rural areas are starved for energy, without which transforming smallholder agriculture into successful agribusinesses is going to be very difficult,” he said.

Panelist Hugo Lucas, Director for Policy Advice and Capacity Building at the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), said the future of bioenergy is bright. “If you sum up the potential of fuels from biomass, you can meet all of the world’s energy demand,” he stated, adding that the debate on biofuels is not a simple one; “Whether biofuel crops are good or bad depends on management practices.”

Biodiesel and bioethanol are projected to come down in cost as a result of rapid technological progress and better delivery systems, Lucas said. “This is good news, because liquid fuels [as opposed to electricity and gas] are the only viable way to turn transport green.”

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Daisy Ouya

Daisy Ouya is a science writer and communications specialist with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Over the past 15 years she has been packaging and disseminating scientific knowledge in the fields of entomology, agriculture, health, HIV/AIDS research, and marine science. Daisy is a Board-certified Editor in the Life Sciences ( and has a Masters’ degree in chemistry from the University of Connecticut, USA. Her BSc is from the University of Nairobi in her native Kenya. She has worked as a journal editor, science writer, publisher, and communications strategist with various organizations. She joined ICRAF in July 2012. Twitter: @daisyouya

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