Bioenergy Australia calls on COAG to consider a bio-powered future
The Bioenergy 2017 conference, held last week at Darling Harbour, saw the release of research indicating that the NSW North Coast has untapped biopower potential through forests and sawmills with enough residue that would power 200,000 homes a year.
The 2.5-year project analysed forest production around regional hubs in Grafton, Kempsey and Bulahdelah. It found that more than 1 million tonnes of forest residue could be used for bioenergy with no adverse effects to the environment. By using this residue for bioenergy, Australia could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, forest management operational costs, fire risk and fuel loads, as well as support regional development.
“This highlights the opportunity for Australia to provide dispatchable electricity generation through regional areas,” said Bioenergy Australia CEO Shahana McKenzie. “This in turn would help to rapidly stabilise and decarbonise, and have a higher renewable, energy grid.
“We also believe … this research has applicable learnings and insights for many other forestry-intensive regional areas around Australia. And this demonstrates the very real and currently available untapped resources we have at our fingertips to unleash more bioenergy potential.”
Last month, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg announced that coal, gas, hydro and biomass will be “rewarded” for their dispatchability, while wind, solar and hydro will no longer be subsidised. In light of this recognition of the benefits of bioenergy, Bioenergy Australia is now calling on the government to seriously consider bioenergy as part of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) energy discussions.
“Energy from biomass, such as forestry and agriculture residues, is a renewable that can be used across all three energy sectors: transport, heat and electricity,” said McKenzie. “Biomass can be utilised directly for heat energy or converted into gas, electricity or liquid fuels.”
Renewable bioenergy is energy derived from sustainable biomass. Sustainable biomass is produced as a by-product of forestry, sawmilling and agriculture activities that also produce integrated renewable and recyclable wood and paper products.
Biomass use for energy generation is considered ‘carbon neutral’ over its life cycle, as the CO2 released by the combustion of the renewable wood waste is captured by new plants as they regrow in a sustainable cycle. The Kyoto Protocol regards bioenergy as CO2 neutral while the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change defines bioenergy as renewable, if it is produced from biomass that is sustainably managed — as Australia’s commercial sustainable forestry operations are.
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