In this module, the focus will be on biomass potential considerations for energetic use. Like any type of energy production, the energetic use of biomass is associated with opportunities and risks (see table below). Sustainable provision is a fundamental prerequisite for the contribution to the energy system and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. When using biogenic resources, the principle of "food first" should therefore generally apply, i.e. the cultivation of food has priority over energy use. At the same time, biomass use must be accompanied by a sustainable carbon balance (e.g. preservation of valuable habitats), sustainable management of agricultural and forestry land and sustainable consumption (Thrän et al. 2016). How these factors can be taken into account is described in this chapter using the example of some usage pathways. Information on how questions of sustainability can be incorporated into potential calculations can also be found in other parts of the lecture and the respective exercises.
Table: Energetic use of biomass: Possible opportunities and risks
|Energetic use of biomass: Opportunities
|Energetic use of biomass: Risks
|High flexibility, good storage capacity: compensation of fluctuating production, e.g. by wind power or solar energy
|Possible competition for use (e.g. for food and animal feed production)
|Decentralised energy supply, rural development
|Direct or indirect land use changes
|Can be used in a variety of ways (heat, electricity, fuels)
|Undesirable environmental effects (e.g. through the cultivation of monocultures)
|Environmentally and climate-friendly CO2 savings
|Often dependent on subsidies, as otherwise not economically feasible
Can you think of further advantages and risks of the energetic use of biomass?
Do you notice anything about the risks? What type of biomass do these negative aspects primarily relate to?
At the beginning of this chapter, a distinction was made between designated crops or cultivated biomass and residues and waste materials. Many competing uses above concern the cultivation of designated crops. Although the potential competing uses are less apparent when residues and waste materials are considered, certain restrictions must also be taken into account here. These include, for example, possible or actual use as animal feed, bedding or fertiliser. Therefore, we will take competition in the use into account for the GIS exercises. Using the example of cascading use, a possible solution for minimising competition is described in the next sub-chapter.