Major report released at “Bioenergy Australia 2009”

By December 9th, 2009

CSIRO’s leading bioenergy scientists will share their latest research on new ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at “Bioenergy Australia 2009” starting today on the Gold Coast.

Australia’s bioenergy industry – which uses biomass for heat, power (bioelectricity) and liquid fuels (biofuels) – is relatively small. However, in the future it has very significant growth potential, driven by the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to secure future fuel supply.

During the conference, the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) will release the ‘Sustainable production of bioenergy’ report. The report recommends the development of a bioenergy sustainability framework.

The report’s lead author, CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship’s Dr Deborah O’Connell, said it was important for Australia to demonstrate that the bioenergy industry is sustainable.

“Sustainability is a major issue for the bioenergy industry internationally.”

Dr Deborah O’Connell

“Sustainability is a major issue for the bioenergy industry internationally,” Dr O’Connell said.

“Many countries in the world are well on the way to addressing sustainability issues surrounding biofuel production. It is important for Australia to be involved in these developments, particularly if we want to access international markets and trade.”

The bioenergy industry ranges from groups including biomass producers (farmers, foresters, waste managers), biofuel and electricity producers through to major fuel distributers and large fuel users – for example the aviation industry.

“Although the industry is currently small in Australia, there are many drivers for the industry to grow,” Dr O’Connell said.

“Australia has an excellent opportunity to ensure that this is done in a way which can demonstrate sustainability credentials for the industry, and make a contribution to Australia’s broader sustainability goals.”

A sustainable bioenergy industry would take into account the environmental, social and economic impact of growing, harvesting and converting bioenergy and ensure this was done responsibly.

“Clear demonstration of sustainability will be a strong industry enabler by providing long-term consumer confidence in bioenergy products, and in many countries this is now seen as a pre-requisite for governments to continue to provide financial support or to gain access to their markets,” Dr O’Connell said.

The report reviews the international and national policy environments for bioenergy; the theory and application of sustainability assessment; and lays out some steps that can be made in Australia to develop our own approach and engage with the latest international developments.

The study was co-funded by CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship, RIRDC, Industry and Investment NSW, the University of New England and the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment. It was authored by Deborah O’Connell, Andrew Braid, John Raison, Kristian Handberg, Annette Cowie, Luis C. Rodriguez and Brendan George.

Other topics to be discussed at the conference are: the production of biodiesel from microalgae; the costs associated with producing biofuels; a biomass sustainability framework; and, the opportunities for bioenergy in Queensland.

CSIRO’s biofuels research focuses on the development and assessment of second-generation biofuels with the potential to overcome the economic, social and environmental constraints faced by first generations options to date.

Bioenergy Australia 2009 runs from 9-10 December at the Radisson Resort on the Gold Coast, Queensland.

CSIRO initiated the National Research Flagships to provide science-based solutions in response to Australia’s major research challenges and opportunities. The 10 Flagships form multidisciplinary teams with industry and the research community to deliver impact and benefits for Australia.

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