Bioenergy and development: the investment case for sustainable production systems

Ravi Prabhu, ICRAF Deputy Director General, Research, at the opening panel of the conference on bioenergy and development. Photo IASS/Bettina Ausserhofer

Ravi Prabhu, ICRAF Deputy Director General, Research, at the opening panel of the conference on bioenergy and development. Photo IASS/Bettina Ausserhofer

Leading thinkers and practitioners from around the world discuss ways that bioenergy can be used to provide equitable access to energy while contributing to livelihoods, income and growth without compromising food production, ecosystem services and productive land use.

Despite fast growth of the bioenergy sector, experiences have been mixed. There are conflicting messages about the potential for different sources of bioenergy to contribute to low carbon energy budgets and socio-economic development objectives.

A recent conference on bioenergy and development, organized by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the Institute for Advanced Development Studies (IASS Potsdam), brought together about 130 leading thinkers and practitioners from countries and organizations that have made advancements in innovative and sustainable bioenergy production models. Themed ‘the investment case for sustainable production systems’ the conference identified and discussed ways that bioenergy can be used to provide equitable access to energy while contributing to livelihoods, income and growth without compromising food production, ecosystem services and productive land-use.

Klaus Töpfer of IASS giving the key note speech at the conference on bioenergy and development. Photo: IASS/Bettina Ausserhofer

Klaus Töpfer of IASS giving the key note speech at the conference on bioenergy and development. Photo: IASS/Bettina Ausserhofer

In the conference keynote, Klaus Töpfer of IASS summarized main controversies, limitations and opportunities related to bioenergy development. This set the pace for the conference, as well as articulated realistic expectations for modern bioenergy production, especially in developing countries.

In his presentation, Ravi Prabhu, ICRAF’s deputy director general for research, emphasized on the potential of bioenergy towards the realization of the SDGs.

During deliberations, participants sought to clarify the role that bioenergy can play in meeting growing energy needs, as well as share lessons on policy and investments to identify promising pathways for buying into sustainable bioenergy.

Ivone Lobos Alva of IASS and Linda Davis of SmartCook Energy at a panel discussion at the ICRAF/IASS conference on bioenergy and development. Photo: IASS/Bettina Ausserhofer

Ivone Lobos Alva of IASS (right)  and Linda Davis of SmartCook Energy (left) at a panel discussion at the ICRAF/IASS conference on bioenergy and development. Photo: IASS/Bettina Ausserhofer

Participants had the opportunity to discuss in detail issues around traditional biomass-based energy production and climate change, sustainable biofuels to avoid the food vs fuel trap, and responsible land governance for food and energy security.

Further, participants outlined critical factors necessary for the success of sustainable bioenergy. These include the need for sustainable energy policies alighted to the SDGs, as well as consideration of national and local contexts in the development of bioenergy technologies. Also important is good governance to ensure rights to adequate food, responsible land regulation and attention to the impact on all SDGs and on ecosystems and their functions.

Session at the ICRAF/IASS conference on bioenergy and development. Photo IASS/Bettina Ausserhofer

Session at the ICRAF/IASS conference on bioenergy and development. Photo IASS/Bettina Ausserhofer

In conclusion, participants concurred that under the right conditions, bioenergy has the potential to contribute to the energy-mix required for sustainable development and contribute to overcoming poverty, especially in rural areas. Ultimately, this contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals and global efforts to combat climate change.

Conference outcome

The outcome of the conference was a statement outlining critical success factors for sustainable bioenergy, as well as a call to governments and the private sector to invest in renewable energy. The statement also urges for greater investment in research to increase knowledge of bioenergy options.

Download the statement here.

See the conference website here.

Read more

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Blog: Sustainable bioenergy and the Sustainable Development Goals in Indonesia

s.onyango@cgiar.org'

Susan Onyango

Susan Onyango is the Global Communications Coordinator at the World Agroforestry Centre and is based at the headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. With over 15 year’s experience in communication, she ensures efficient and effective coordination of communication support to units and regions at ICRAF. She joined ICRAF in 2014 as communications specialist for the Climate Change Unit. Susan holds a MA communication studies and a BA in English. Twitter: @susanonyango

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