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BIOENERGY FOR EUROPE: WHICH ONES FIT BEST?

BIOENERGY FOR EUROPE: WHICH ONES FIT BEST?

92 6 Conclusions and

92 6 Conclusions and recommendations parison to the average annual impacts of the country inhabitants of the particular country. The latter form was chosen for Europe also. (Figure 6-1 shows an example of a result diagram for Europe.) It should be stressed that this choice is a subjective one concerning the form of presentation only and does not influence the results. Furthermore certain country representatives, as in the case of Greece, chose to summarise their results in the form of simplified tables. To summarise: a final assessment in favour of or against a particular fuel cannot be carried out on a scientific basis, because for this purpose subjective value judgements regarding the individual environmental categories are required, which differ from person to person. Whether a specific biofuel is assessed as better or worse than its fossil equivalent depends upon the focus and priorities of the decision maker. If the main focus of the decision maker is for example on the reduction of the greenhouse effect and the saving of energy resources, then the biofuel will be better suited. If on the other hand other parameters are deemed to be most important, then depending on the specific results of the comparison in question, the fossil fuel might be preferred. Thus decision makers, political institutions, etc. are encouraged to carry out their own assessment on the basis of the results presented here, and – very importantly – to express their priorities by which they carry out the assessment. II Results of the comparisons “biofuels versus biofuels” In this part those biofuels which fulfil the same purpose were compared against each other, for Europe and for each individual country (Chapters 4.2 and 7.1 respectively). The following issues were addressed: • Technical applications I: heat production • Technical applications II: transport • Ecological aspects I: efficiency of land use • Ecological aspects II: impacts related to saved energy The comparisons were carried out on the basis of the differences between the biofuels and their respective fossil equivalents with regard to the same environmental impact categories referred to in the previous section. It should be noted here that a comparison of products with different end-uses is difficult. For example, the energy demand for space heating can be covered by ambient and solar heat as well as all types of biomass with proven technologies. The technological requirements on fuels for power production on the other hand are higher. Electricity can be produced easily from biogas, but because of the amount and the properties of the ash of triticale further research and development are necessary when it is used in power plants. Ethanol and vegetable oil methyl esters are the only renewable transport fuels which have reached market maturity. Heat production: traditional firewood, Miscanthus, willow and wheat straw were compared against each other. Regarding the use of fossil fuels and the greenhouse effect there are no significant differences between any of the biofuels, but traditional firewood shows the most favourable values in all categories apart from summer smog (for which the results are too small however to be regarded as significant). Transport: RME, SME and ETBE were compared against each other. SME achieves the best results regarding the use of fossil fuels, the greenhouse effect and eutrophication, while RME achieves the lowest for most categories. Efficiency of land use: triticale, willow, Miscanthus, RME, SME and ETBE were compared against each other. In this case the impacts of each fuel produced on an equal amount of land area were assessed. Triticale reveals by far the highest benefits regarding the categories use of fossil fuels, greenhouse effect and acidification. However, it has also the greatest disadvantages with respect to ozone depletion and eutrophication. RME and SME show the smallest advantages regarding the use of fossil fuels and the greenhouse effect.

6 Conclusions and recommendations 93 Impacts related to saved energy: here the comparison revealed the “side-effects” of each biofuel for every MJ saved through its use instead of the fossil fuel. All biofuels were compared against each other. The results here are very heterogeneous, depending on the biofuel and “side-effect” impact category respectively. For every MJ fossil energy saved, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions also ensues for all biofuels. This effect is by far the greatest for biogas, followed by triticale, and is lowest for RME. On the other hand, for most of the biofuels a negative “side-effect” results compared to the fossil fuels regarding most other categories. To summarise: no single biofuel can be regarded as “the best” for any of these issues. An evaluation must consider the different types of energy (for space heating, power production, transport fuel), the different levels of technological development (mature technology, demonstration or pilot stage, experimental) and additionally the subjective judgements of the individual decision maker regarding which of the impact categories is most important. Still the observations listed above can be useful in such a decision process. These results themselves can be regarded as very reliable, since generally the uncertainties of the data for the various biofuels are due to similar factors and therefore tend to cancel each other out in the comparison among each other. III Results of the comparisons between the countries for each biofuel Here the results of each country for each biofuel were compared against each other. This was done with regard to the differences between the biofuels and their corresponding fossil fuels. For further details on this as well as the presentation of the result graphs the reader is referred to Chapter 7.2. The results give a very heterogeneous picture: for certain biofuels and impact categories the differences between the countries are relatively small, while for others they are significantly large. The magnitude of the differences appears to be more dependent on the biofuel than the impact categories, thus for some chains, such as wheat straw, the values for all countries and with respect to most impact categories are relatively similar to the European average, while for other chains, e. g. biogas, the values differ significantly. It is noticeable that with the exception of biogas for all biofuels the parameters use of fossil fuels, greenhouse effect and human toxicity show very similar results between the countries, while for the other categories the differences tend to be larger. Differences in yields also influence the results of the environmental analysis. The differences between countries are most profound with the perennial crops, which may be explained by differences in the scarce experiences with these crops and their cultivation. The influence of this variation in yields on the results is limited however, if primary energy is used as functional unit. The influence is larger when the analysis focuses on efficiency of land use. IV Results of the socio-economic and political analyses The purpose of these analyses was to complement the findings resulting from the environmental analysis. Their function was to show support, or lack of it, for the results of the environmental analysis, from a socio-economic and political point of view. It must be particularly emphasised that this part of the assessment is not a comprehensive one, as this would have exceeded the scope of this project by far. Also, in many cases the methodology was not advanced enough or insufficient reliable data could be obtained to enable an adequate assessment. This present assessment comprised three sectors: economic aspects, visual impact of landscape changes and political factors. The first part is mainly quantitative. For the cost calculation the same input and yield figures were used as in the environmental analysis (Chapter 7), supplemented with price data from the literature. The second and third parts are qualitative and contain effects on landscape and an impression of policy and political arguments by each country in favour of or against certain biofuel chains.

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