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Overcoming Barriers to Bioenergy (NOE-BIOENERGY)

Final Report Summary - NOE-BIOENERGY (Overcoming Barriers to Bioenergy)

The BIOENERGY NOE project initially covered the entire field of bioenergy. The primary objective of the BIOENERGY NOE was to integrate partner activities in such a way that eventually a deep and durable integration continues beyond the period of financial support. Integration of research and development (R&D) activities was the primary goal of the project and should be achieved by converting the 'independently executed research' carried out at each partner organisation initially to 'jointly executed research'.

Bioenergy is very complex, as it is affected by several policies such as common agricultural policy, Kyoto policy, waste and land filling policy, forest policy etc. The complexity of bioenergy is emphasised as the bioenergy chain involves agricultural, transport and industrial sectors, in addition to final consumers. To overcome the barriers of bioenergy development, the entire chain from resource base to end-use markets have to be considered.

An overall strategy was developed at an early stage of the project, with a clear view that the strategy and the specific actions related to the implementation of the strategy would be further developed and refined during the five year duration of the BIOENERGY project. It was also expected that the guidelines from the European Commission should evolve into more concrete expectations as experience was accumulated from this instrument in time.

Initially three stages were identified for the whole duration of the project:
1. Identification of barriers to increase use of bioenergy in Europe. Some of these barriers were considered non-technical by nature. During this stage, barriers were analysed in terms of business opportunities. It was believed that by analysing case studies and industrial projects, common barriers may be identified.
2. Once barriers have been identified, RTD goals to remove them were developed, and a common strategy to overcome the barriers was considered. The target was to activate and carry-out jointly executed research projects. The integration structure could be established based on these projects.
3. In the final phase, the integration structure and a legal framework were considered with regard to the partners' present organisations and new EU initiatives concerning future network activities.

The mapping of partners' competence was carried out using an extensive spreadsheet tool dividing each area of activity into three levels of detail. Each partner completed the spreadsheet by marking the topics, sub-topics and sub-sub-topics in which they are conducting research and technological development (RTD) activities. The activities of the partners were classified by type of activity: feasibility studies, basic research, applied research, demonstration and product development.

Each partner provided detailed information of every activity in a consistent format that addressed the following aspects:
- past and present projects (including EU and national projects);
- expertise and equipment / models;
- partnerships in RTD and industry;
- coordination of programmes;
- publications;
- financing structure;
- future projects and plans;
- improvements / additions to equipment;
- long-term work basis for area: corporate policy, national policy, financing prospects.

This analysis showed that there is comprehensive coverage of all the identified topics and sub-topics with overall a high level of complementarily in most areas. There is clearly some overlap in research areas and topics but often at different scales of operation and with different objectives. There is also an extensive range of facilities and expertise within the consortium that permits almost every aspect of bioenergy systems to be studied from fundamental science through technology research and development to system analysis.

The barrier analysis was performed using the same areas of activities employed in the mapping exercise. The objectives were to analyse barriers to bioenergy implementation and to analyse how barriers may be overcome by RTD work.

The barrier analysis was structured to consider the following categories: economics, legislation, technology, biomass supply, sustainability, and social aspects. Barriers related to all of these aspects can be seen as the most important barriers to the increase of bioenergy deployment and production.

The main barriers (technical and non-technical) were found to be:
- lack of infrastructure for blending and distribution;
- process limitations: low conversion of lignocelluloses in hydrolysis, tar problems related to syngas production;
- high production costs of bio-transportation fuels;
- existing fuel standards in the European Union and standards defined by car manufacturers.

The overall impression is that the non-technical barriers dominate, the economic barriers being the most prominent ones. However, there is no single barrier that appears as the most important; it is the interaction of many barriers that impedes the rapid expansion of bioenergy use.

Deployment of renewable energy in the European Union varies a great deal from country to country. While some countries have successfully proven high shares of renewable energy at least on some areas, overall the increase of bioenergy use in European Union has been slow.

Greenhouse gas emissions and climate change are currently seen as the most crucial environmental problems. Combating climate change is one of the main commitments under the sustainable development strategy of the European Union.

Entering stage two of the project a new BIOENERGY NOE strategy was adopted and the structure of the activities (work packages (WPs)) was changed in 2006. The aim was to capitalise on the mapping and barrier analysis work of the previous years and focus on business opportunities created by the EU policy to increase the use of bioenergy. Especially, the RES-E, Biofuels for Transport, Emissions Trading, and the Landfill Directives were most essential, when key drivers and market opportunities were considered. The executed work packages reflected this strategy.

The European Commission launched in 2007 a European Strategic Energy Plan (SET-Plan) to accelerate the development and deployment of cost-effective low carbon technologies and a road map to achieve the goals. By 2020, the European Union aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 % over 1990 levels and to ensure 20 % of renewable energy sources in the final consumption. This plan comprises measures relating to planning, implementation, resources and international cooperation in the field of energy technology. The new directive on renewable energy sets ambitious targets for all Member States, such that the European Union will reach a 20 % share of energy from renewable sources by 2020 and a 10 % share of renewable energy specifically in the transport sector. It also improves the legal framework for promoting renewable electricity, requires national action plans that establish pathways for the development of renewable energy sources including bioenergy, creates cooperation mechanisms to help achieve the targets cost effectively and establishes the sustainability criteria for biofuels. The new directive should be implemented by Member States by December 2010. National targets for share of energy from renewable sources in gross final consumption of energy in 2020 were set.

To meet the challenge of the SET-Plan and later the new Red Directive a new WP structure was developed for the BIOENERGY project after the mapping of partner activities, the barrier and European Union directive analysis with corresponding RTD goal definition.

Globally, BIOENERGY partners have a unique set of RTD facilities in laboratory, process development unit (PDU) and pilot scale. In addition, the partners also have access to demonstration units in industry especially related to thermal processes (combustion, gasification). The BIOENERGY project has a critical mass of existing RTD infrastructures especially for second generation biofuel production and use. In the early phase of the work, it was decided to include equipment related to research on biofuels, bio-electricity, and waste-to-energy into the task into the BIOENERGY project common equipment list. Descriptions of the existing partner facilities were collected. The list was compiled based on major, typically PDU scale, facilities in the three areas. Laboratory scale equipment, which supports the major equipments, was also listed. In addition to the main areas, biofuels, bio-electricity, and waste-to-energy, some complementary areas are also listed: systems and modelling, (biomass) cultivation, handling and properties, and fundamentals.

During 2008, discussions among partners focused on finding new options for a legal structure for the planned integration. However, it became clear that the different types of organisation represented by the current partners have substantially different requirements for a future legal entity: universities, publicly owned research organisations, commercial Ltd-type research enterprises and publicly owned contract research organisations with a commercial operation.

The position of the partners regarding the ultimate format of the organisational structure has been elaborated and the current position is clearly supporting a flexible association or consortium agreement-type structure:
- creating a company-like durable structure may create major legal constraints to most partners;
- partners cannot commit to transferring all resources and facilities into a new entity;
- if only part of the capacity is transferred, this could lead to internal competition or to a situation where the new entity would compete with its own members in offering services;
- at this stage the most likely alternative is to continue within the present or modified consortium structure;
- European Research Group (ERG) proposed by INRA: a simple cooperation instrument without legal personality;
- the new instruments (EIT, EERA etc.) may change the picture completely;
- discussions continue with no alternative yet ruled out.

The BIOENERGY NOE website maintains and increases the visibility of the project consortium across a European and global platform. The website can be accessed using the following web address: