Technical Note: Land-based biomass and energy crops

Biomass and biofuels play a crucial role in the European Commission’s strategy towards energy security and greenhouse gas emissions reduction. While biomass is a renewable energy source that is integral to the energy transition of many sectors, its current share in the renewable energy mix will have to grow substantially to meet policy goals set by the European Commission (EU/2023/2413). For the road sector, biofuels are essential as a bridging renewable fuel until full electrification can be achieved. In other mobility segments, such as aviation and shipping, biofuels will likely play an important role for decades to come, in moving away from fossil fuels. Also, biomass will be an essential feedstock in the transition to green chemicals and materials.

Biomass feedstocks are available in many different forms and are large potentials are found in the agricultural sector. While residual biomass is seen as the most sustainable biomass feedstock, residues and waste streams alone will not be enough to satisfy the expected future biomass demand. The latest estimates of biomass mobilisation potentials in Europe provided by the European Commination confirm that the largest potential will become available from the agricultural sector. In a technical potential, a significant contribution can be achieved from primary production of intermediate cover crops (Figure 1).

Additional sourcing from dedicated cropping of land-based biomass will be needed to meet the rising demands for biomass feedstocks. Platform Renewable Fuels conducted an analysis on one of the many potential avenues for bio-feedstock mobilisation. In this Technical Note on Land-based biomass and energy crops, there is a focus on two feedstock categories namely, the use of marginal lands and intercropping. These feedstock categories or the particular set-ups they are produced in do not compete with food and feed production nor for the use productive agricultural land. Furthermore, the choice of these two avenues is aligned with the needs of biofuel producers where the control of feedstock quality and security of supply are a priority.

Figure 1: Biomass potentials in technical, low, medium and high potentials in 2030 and 2050 and distributions over biomass categories (in million dry tonnes) (Adapted from EC, 2024). Click here to enlarge.

Read the analysis and deep dive into land-based biomass and energy crops by downloading the Technical Note on the righthand-side or by clicking here.