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Biofuel: A Renewable Road to Net Zero, ADBA analyses IEA report on biofuel policy

India has proposed the Global Biofuel Alliance (GBA) as part of its G20 presidency to promote collaboration between countries on expanding sustainable biofuel production and use. The GBA aims to share best practices, provide technical support, and build capacity to help create new biofuel markets. This would support efforts to decarbonize transportation and heating by displacing fossil fuels with secure and affordable renewable biofuel alternatives.

Leading up to this, the International Energy Agency recently published; Biofuel Policy in Brazil, India and the United States, an insight report for the Global Biofuels Alliance. This report provides key insights from the biofuel policies and experiences of Brazil, India and the United States to help guide and focus the work of the Alliance. The analysis shows these leading biofuel countries have successfully driven growth through long-term strategies, investment incentives, support for innovation, security of supply measures, early sustainability actions and international collaboration.

Looking ahead, the report highlights three priority areas for the Alliance to facilitate further sustainable biofuel deployment globally: pinpointing and cultivating high-potential markets; spurring accelerated technology development, and building consensus on performance-based sustainability frameworks. IEA recommends that, by targeting these action areas and leveraging the lessons from top biofuel nations, the Alliance can play a pivotal role in supporting the worldwide energy transition.

Here, our analysts take a look at the IEA report to provide you with a brief summary, to help understand the crucial role biofuels play in the world’s road to net zero.

With rising concerns about climate change and energy security, there is growing interest in expanding the use of sustainable biofuels for transportation. Biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel can provide a renewable alternative to fossil fuels, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global sustainable biofuel production needs to triple by 2030 to be consistent with reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

To help countries work together to achieve this rapid growth, India has proposed creating a Global Biofuel Alliance (GBA). The GBA would facilitate collaboration and information sharing on best practices for policies, sustainability measures, and technology innovation to support biofuel deployment.

Current Leading Biofuel Producers

Most of today’s biofuel production is concentrated in just a few countries. The top producers are:

– United States: The largest producer at 70 billion litres per year, accounting for 40% of global production. Mainly corn ethanol, driven by the Renewable Fuel Standard blending mandate.

– Brazil: The 2nd largest producer where biofuels supply 22% of transport energy. Ethanol from sugarcane and biodiesel from soy have grown due to blending mandates, incentives and sustainability programs.

– Europe: Major producer of biodiesel mainly from oilseeds like rapeseed and palm oil.

– Indonesia: Major biodiesel producer, mainly from palm oil.

Together these four regions account for over 80% of global production, but only around half of global transport fuel demand. This share is expected to decline to 40% by 2028 as demand grows in new markets. To expand sustainable biofuel supplies, both existing leading producers and new countries will need to substantially increase production.

Success Stories from Brazil, the United States and India

Brazil, the United States and India provide examples of how effective policies and measures can drive biofuel growth. Key success factors in these countries include:

– Long-term strategies with targets for blending mandates and GHG reductions.
– Policy incentives like tax credits and guaranteed pricing mechanisms.
– Programs to support innovation and infrastructure.
– Sustainability measures such as lifecycle GHG accounting.
– Vehicle compatibility with higher biofuel blends.

For example, ethanol now provides 6% of transport energy in India compared to 3% in 2019, thanks to supportive policies introduced since 2018 like targets, pricing schemes and incentives. The United States has sustained over 20% annual growth for 5-year periods, demonstrating that rapid expansion is possible.

Sustainably Scaling Up Production

Sustainably tripling global biofuel production will require a mix of both conventional biofuels from crops and advanced biofuels from wastes, residues and marginal lands. The IEA estimates there are sufficient sustainable supplies to expand production by unlocking the potential from:

– Improved agricultural productivity on existing lands
– Better collection of residues and wastes compatible with current biofuel technologies
– New technologies to process cellulosic feedstocks like crop residues and wood waste

For example, India has an estimated 1 billion tonnes of agricultural residues and other organic wastes available that could be processed into biofuels. But this will require accelerating the deployment of advanced technologies through coordinated efforts like the GBA.

Realizing the GBA Vision

The Global Biofuel Alliance has an important role to play in getting sustainable biofuel growth on track to support global net zero ambitions. Key priorities for the GBA could include:

– Identifying regions with high potential for expanding both conventional and advanced biofuel production.
– Developing collaborative programs to accelerate the commercialization of advanced technologies.
– Establishing consistent sustainability assessment frameworks for biofuels.

With supportive policies, innovation and strategic partnerships facilitated by initiatives like the GBA, sustainable biofuels can make a vital contribution to reducing emissions from transport while enhancing energy security around the world.

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