is a senior scientist in the Sustainable Transport Unit of the Institute for Energy and Transport, European Commission, Joint Research Centre in Petten, where he is responsible for a range of activities related to implementation of sustainable bioenergy and biofuels technologies in the EU. He is leader of the biogas and biomethane task force in IEA Bioenergy.
David has a PhD in high temperature materials.
Bioenergy has for decades been the dominant contributor to the renewable energy mix in the EU. While its share in percentage terms is decreasing as wind and solar energy in particularly experience rapid growth, bioenergy is destined to grow considerably in the coming years. Most of the expected growth will depend on the development of new technologies for both bioenergy and biofuels production. In terms of bioenergy, this includes both small- and large-scale systems for high efficiency biomass conversion. For biofuels, this means mainly large-scale systems for conversion of non-food biomass to liquid or gaseous fuels for the transport sector. A very wide range of biofuels could possibly be produced, however the most interesting biofuels for the current transport fleet are those that can directly substitute for fossil fuels without adaptation to engines or delivery systems (so-called drop-in fuels like bio-gasoline and bio-kerosene). Nevertheless, a great deal of attention is directed to alcohol-type fuels that can be blended, within certain limits, with existing fossil fuels. The new technologies for bioenergy and biofuels can be both expensive to develop and to scale up to commercial size and involve significant risk. Various schemes have been implemented to provide support to new technology development.
Within the Strategic Energy Technologies Plan (SET-Plan), the European Commission launched a number of European Industrial Initiatives (EIIs) to provide coordination and structural support to strategic energy sectors. The European Bioenergy Industrial Initiative (EIBI) was launched in 2010 to support demonstration of a range of promising bioenergy and biofuel technologies within 7 well-defined Value Chains. The key objective of the EIBI is to provide support to those technologies that have a high potential to achieve satisfactory operating performance under normal commercial market conditions. In principle, the target is to achieve successful “first of a kind” commercially viable projects by 2020. Progress of the various bioenergy projects included in the EIBI is monitored in part using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) established by the JRC in collaboration with the European Biofuels Technology Platform. The KPIs are derived in large part from market information and projections on the economic side and from environmental sustainability requirements defined in the European Renewables Directive (2009/28/EC). The progress of technology development is monitored through the now well-known “Technology Maps” (JRC Science and Technology Report, 2013).
Within the frame of the EIBI, a consortium of six Member States (Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom) and Switzerland, is implementing an ERANET Plus activity called “Bioenergy Sustaining the Future” (BESTF). BESTF has already made 2 calls for projects and approved projects from the first call in 2013. The BESTF projects are all subject to EIBI project selection criteria and are targeted to achieve EIBI KPIs. Substantial funding has been approved for a further 8 large-scale bioenergy demonstration projects (in the first call for projects) using funds from the European Emissions Trading System (ETS). Under this scheme, 300 million allowances from the ETS “new entrants reserve” (NER300) are used for the funding. The first of the bioenergy projects, making cellulosic ethanol, was launched in June 2013 and further projects are scheduled to start in the period to 2016. A second NER300 call for additional projects was closed in 2014. Most of the Value Chains defined in the EIBI implementation plan are covered by the NER300 projects.
All bioenergy and biofuels projects aiming for commercial viability must invariably minimise waste and maximise utilisation of residues to produce value-added products. In terms of economic performance, maximum output of high value products such as chemicals and biomaterials will be needed to enable competitive biofuel production. This situation is the same for bioenergy projects. Hence, most bioenergy and fuels projects are better described as biorefineries. While there are many biorefinery definitions, the IEA Bioenergy definition is the most comprehensive; “Biorefining is the sustainable processing of biomass into a spectrum of bio-based products (food, feed, chemicals, and/or materials) and bioenergy (biofuels, power and/or heat). Both energy-driven biorefineries and product-driven biorefineries can be distinguished. In energy-driven biorefineries the biomass is primarily used for the production of secondary energy carriers (biofuels, power and/or heat); process residues are sold as feed (current situation), or even better are upgraded to added-value bio-based products, to optimise economics and environmental benefits of the full biomass supply chain. In product-driven biorefineries the biomass is fractionised into a portfolio of bio-based products with maximal added-value and overall environmental benefits, after which the process residues are used for power and/or heat production, for both internal use and selling of the surplus to national grids.” (IEA Bioenergy, 2014).
The environmental performance of biomass conversion technologies for bioenergy and biofuels is a key topic of the JRC’s contribution to monitoring of implementation of the renewables directive (2009/28/EC). The economic performance of all technologies covered by the SET-Plan is a key component of the JRC’s modelling of the EU’s energy systems.
Biorefining is a key component of the emerging bioeconomy in which Europe will address the complex inter-connected challenges of biomass utilisation, while at the same time achieving sustainable economic growth. The Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC) was established in 2013 to provide an additional impulse to industrial participation in sustainable biomass utilisation. The Commission launched the Bioeconomy Observatory in 2013 with the aim of providing data on the growth of the bioeconomy and its constituent sectors. In addition, the observatory should track economic and employment indicators, innovation indicators, and measures of productivity, social wellbeing and environmental quality. It will also provide a "technology watch” and “policy watch”, to follow the development of science and technology as well of policies related to the bioeconomy.