What is Bioenergy?
Bioenergy is a type of energy sourced from organic material found in plants known as biomass. Biomass contains carbon absorbed by plants through the process of photosynthesis. When biomass is used to make energy, carbon is released during combustion and then returns to the atmosphere (Hodgson et al., 2022). It is identified as one of the most important renewable energy sources, providing over 9% of the global total energy supply (Wood Energy 101., nd). Also, the reliance on bioenergy increased by 7% between 2010 – 2021 and continues to grow (Hodgson et al., 2022). This reliance is growing because of recent public pressures to be on track with Net Zero solutions, in which bioenergy sources are being presented to achieve a net zero world (Hodgson et al., 2022). Bioenergy comes from two resources: purpose-grown crops (crops that will be used for renewable energy, not for production use) and trees. Thus unsustainable practices regarding harnessing the energy from these resources, crops and trees will harm the environment and cause emissions to increase and biodiversity loss (Hodgson et al., 2022).
What is Wood-Based Energy?
An example of bioenergy is Wood Energy, one of the largest energy providers in the world in the 1800s. It was considered the most significant energy supplier in the United States Of America until coal was introduced as another energy provider (Wood Energy 101., nd). Wood energy is retained through the combustion of a solid celluloid material identified in trees and woody shrubs. Biomass produces less air pollution and releases fewer emissions than other fossil fuels. Wood is also considered an abundant resource, and different wood products, such as pellets, briquettes, and chips harvested from trees, can be explicitly used as a wood energy source. Today, wood continues to be one of the largest sources of renewable energy on earth, with the energy generated from the combustion being used to generate electricity for production, space and water heating, industrial thermal processes and much more (Wood Energy 101., nd).
Key Advantages and Disadvantages of Wood Energy:
Adapted from: What Is Wood Energy?
The Advantages of Wood Energy:
- Inexpensive to use and generate energy from
- The resource is considered one of the most affordable energy sources on the market.
- Wood is an abundant resource.
- Different forms of wood can be used to generate energy and can be grown for the purpose of using it for energy production.
- Renewable energy source
- Using biomass for energy results in less air pollution compared to burning coal and other fossil fuels
Disadvantages of Wood Energy:
- Releases carbon dioxide into the air
- Although the emissions are limited, it still releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere
- Degrades ecosystems and wildlife habitats
- Surrounding emissions and the burning of trees results in biodiversity loss of habitats
- Accelerates Deforestation
- Concerning the second point, cutting down trees for wood energy will result in deforestation
Wood-Based Energy and Climate Change
As aforementioned, wood needs to be burned to harness energy from it, emitting carbon dioxide into the air and creating harmful impacts on the environment (Our Forests aren’t Fuel, 2020). Researchers continue to warn that burning trees for energy/ electricity is worsening climate change and increasing global warming (Our forests aren’t fuel, 2020). Even incorporating sustainable practices into harnessing the energy, such as burning down trees and planting saplings for new ones, degrades the land and threatens the area’s biodiversity. These practices are ultimately not aligned with combating climate change and the Net Zero Agenda. So, why are we still using these techniques?
Researchers say it has the “smallest carbon footprint” compared to other renewable energy sources. Many debates surround wood energy and its advantages and disadvantages of being used as a renewable resource to combat climate change. There is still no agreement on whether wood energy is good or bad. Although there is no doubt that wood energy is a vital resource for renewable energy, wood can be used as an alternative energy source. However, it should not be our primary source of reliance for energy use. Moving forward, industries and society should be aware of wood energy’s positive and adverse consequences and its impact on the environment and climate change.
“A transition to clean energy is about making an investment in our future.” – Gloria Reuben, actress and environmental activist.
Hodgson, D., Bains, P., & Moorhouse , J. (2022, September). Bioenergy – Analysis. IEA. https://www.iea.org/reports/bioenergy
Our forests aren’t fuel. Be a Force for the Future. (2020, May 8). https://www.nrdc.org/resources/our-forests-arent-fuel#:~:text=For%20years%2C%20scientists%20have%20warned,the%20same%20amount%20of%20electricity.
Wood energy 101. Wisconsin Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. (n.d.). https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/energy/wisconsin-state-wood-energy-team/learning/wood-energy-101/#:~:text=What%20is%20Wood%20Energy%3F,global%20total%20primary%20energy%20supply.
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