IRENA report highlights bioenergy growth potential in the U.S.

By Erin Voegele | February 12, 2015

The International Renewable Energy Agency has published a report that highlights the realistic potential for higher renewable uptake in all sectors of the U.S. energy system, including power, industry, building and the transportation sector. The report, titled “Renewable Energy Prospects: United States of America,” addresses the potential of several types of renewable energy, including bioenergy and biofuels. It is based on information included in REmap 2030, a global roadmap developed by IRENA that looks at the realistic potential for higher renewable uptake in the U.S.

Overall, renewables accounted for approximately 7.5 percent of the U.S. energy mix in 2010, which is the baseline year for REmap 2030. That 7.5 percent included 2.5 percent for renewable power, 1.6 percent for biofuels and 3.4 percent for solid biomass used for heating in the manufacturing industry and in buildings.

Regarding the transportation sector, the report notes the U.S. produced 13 billion gallons of biofuel in 2012, mostly in the form of corn ethanol. According to the report, total biofuel production could nearly triple by 2030, reaching 39 billion gallons. Approximately 60 percent of that increase could come from advanced ethanol.

The report also addresses biomass and biogas, indicating the U.S. can lead in modern bioenergy technologies by using its vast arable land resources, world-class potential in residues from the agricultural sector, forests and mills, along with unutilized waste and methane from landfills.

IRENA points to the significant potential for growth in biomass heating, noting the use of biomass for heating in the manufacturing sector could triple between 2010 and 2030. In addition, the report predicts biomass could support 84 GW of power generation capacity by 2030, up 46 GW from 2010 capacity levels. According to the report, 40 percent of that growth would be from industrial cogeneration.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the IRENA website.