The Varying Global Energy Landscape

The May/June issue of Biomass Magazine includes stories from around the globe, including a major effort to increase renewable electricity access Africa, and Australian bioenergy production, use and export.
By Anna Simet | April 26, 2018

Recently, someone asked me what percent of U.S. energy is renewable, and I hesitated. I knew wood energy was somewhere around 2 percent—20 percent popped into my head. That was what I said, and later, I confirmed that estimate was high—it actually only accounts for about 10 percent of total U.S. energy consumption, and about 15 percent of electricity generation, according to the U.S. EIA.

In Africa, wood is the source of a whopping 80 percent of all energy consumption, but mostly for heating and cooking. And on a continent home to 1.2 billion-plus people, only about 45 percent actually have access to electricity, and that number is even lower in the sub-Saharan region. In his powerful page-28 feature, “From Impoverished to Empowered,” Senior Editor Ron Kotrba reports on a New Deal on Energy for Africa, an initiative driven by the African Development Bank Group that, in a nut shell, aims to provide Africans universal access to electricity by 2025. Biomass will plan a significant role, and Ousseynou Nakoulima, AfBD’s director of renewable energy, told Kotrba, “Biomass—specifically agriculture residue—does not just provide a solution to the problems of energy access and renewable energy, but it drives business and the value chain all along the ag subsector. In nutshell, these are major advantages.”

Like Africa, Australia has an abundance of ag residue, sugarcane bagasse in particular. Staff Writer Patrick Miller details Australia’s bioenergy development potential, progress and  hindering political forces in his page-14 feature, “Building Out Biomass in the Land Down Under.” In the story, he details several large-scale pellet projects, and found a common theme while discussing them with developers—right now, the domestic market is limited, so eyes are on international markets for now.

Rounding out our global market development issue, I interviewed the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas’s Marcus Gillette on the North American RNG market, which has experienced significant growth over the past several years, one major driver of which has been the Renewable Fuel Standard.  Since 2014, when RNG was qualified to generate cellulosic biofuel RINs under the RFS, the industry’s average annual growth rate has been about 70 percent, Gillette says. He tells me, “What this means is, in the midst of a year when the merits of the RFS are being hotly debated in Washington, the RNG industry is perfect proof that the RFS is continuing to work as Congress intended, growing domestic production and use of cellulosic biofuels.”

I write this ed note shortly before leaving for the International Biomass Conference & Expo, and coming off this timely issue, I look forward to learning even more about the research, equipment and technology innovation, and development and advocacy strategies being deployed to advance the global bioenergy industry.

Author: Anna Simet