Advantages and disadvantages of bioenergy

2 February 2015

Bioenergy is a carbon-neutral and renewable energy source that’s attracting research and development worldwide. The interest is driven by its ability to provide an alternative option to other, less sustainable, fuels.

While it’s a hot topic in conversations around renewable energy, and known to be one of the world’s oldest sources of energy, there are some clear advantages and disadvantages of bioenergy.

Here we explore some of the pros and cons.

On the plus side, bioenergy:

  • emits little or no net greenhouse gas emissions;
  • is a useful way of managing waste disposal for matter that would otherwise be debris;
  • has well-established technology that’s able to deliver reliable energy;
  • can be stored with minimal energy loss;
  • is plentiful wherever there are agricultural crops and forestry;
  • can help to stabilise soils, improve soil fertility and reduce erosion;1 and
  • and can generate both heat and electricity in a cogeneration power plant.

Did you know that pig waste is being used to generate electricity? Check out how a farm in Victoria is making this happen.2


On the down side, bioenergy:

  • is generally a more expensive energy source compared to fossil fuels, because it requires more fuel to produce the same amount of energy;3
  • uses a lot of wood from natural forests which can lead to deforestation, and if wood is not fully burnt it can release soot-like particles that may cause widespread air pollution;4
  • is criticised by some who believe that land and water resources used for biomass crops would be better dedicated to food production;5
  • can be expensive when taking into account the cost of harvesting, extracting, transporting and handling biomass; and
  • and accounts for only one per cent of Australia’s energy mix and currently lacks the capacity to provide consistent baseload power.

 

Read more about how biomass is converted to bioenergy here.  

  1. Clean Energy Council 2012, Bioenergy myths and facts, Clean Energy Council, Melbourne.
  2. Department of State Development, Business, Innovation, Turning piggery waste into electricity, Energy and Resources Victoria.
  3. Australian Institute of Energy 2010, Fact sheet 8: biomass, 2004, Australian Institute of Energy, Surrey Hills, Victoria.
  4. Australian Institute of Energy 2010, Fact sheet 8: biomass, 2004, Australian Institute of Energy, Surrey Hills, Victoria.  
  5. Australian Institute of Energy 2010, Fact sheet 8: biomass, 2004, Australian Institute of Energy, Surrey Hills, Victoria.