Biomass Potential in Africa

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This report focuses on bioenergy in Africa, as this form of renewable energy represents almost 50% of the total primary energy supply (TPES) for the African continent (International Energy Agency (IEA), 2009a), and more than 60% of the Sub-Saharan TPES. Bioenergy is a strategic asset for Africa’s energy future and needs to be assessed in a transparent manner (Figure 1). At IRENA’s behest, the German Biomass Research Centre (Deutsches Biomasseforschungszentrum gGmbH - DBFZ) has collected recent studies assessing bioenergy potential in Africa, compared their various methodologies, benchmarked the results, and identified the key dimensioning elements for those assessments. The outcomes of the analysis are as follows:

1. The studies show an enormous range of calculated biomass potentials;

2. The calculated area potential for energy crops ranges between 1.5 million hectares (ha) and 150 million ha;

3. The various assessments indicate a potential for energy crops from 0 PJ/yr to 13 900 PJ/yr, between 0 PJ/yr and 5 400 PJ/yr for forestry biomass and 10 PJ/yr to 5 254 PJ/yr for residues and waste in Africa by 2020

4. Significant variations found between the studies are primarily due to the selected timeframe, the geographical coverage, the type of potential and biomass resources analysed. Other important reasons for deviations are the underlying assumptions, the so-called driving factors, and the accuracy of the input databases;

5. All the biomass calculations from today through to the year 2100 show a considerable range in potential. For the year 2050, a potential range between 2 360PJ/yr and 337 000 PJ/yr is revealed for Africa (energy crops: 0 PJ/yr to 317 000 PJ/yr; forestry biomass: 14 820 PJ/yr to 18 810 PJ/yr; residues and waste: 2 190 PJ/yr to 20 000 PJ/yr). The potentials for the year 2100 determined in two studies, vary between 74 000 PJ/yr and 181 000 PJ/yr;

6. The calculated area potentials and the assumed production yields have a significant impact on the potential amount of energy crops, forestry biomass, and residues and waste that are available for energy provision;

7. In the studies, both the area potentials and production yields are analysed at different levels of detail and found generally to have a high degree of uncertainty;

8. A precondition for achieving high energy crop potential is an increase in productivity to a level similar to that of industrialised countries, or a stronger focus on energy crop production, e.g. through the cultivation of energy crop rotations;

9. In contrast studies showing little or no potential of energy crops in Africa assume that the enormous population growth and the associated increase in per capita consumption – especially of animal products – will prevent an energy-related use of biomass;

10. One of the key parameters to determine the potential of forestry biomass, or residues and waste, is the competitive use of materials;

11. In general, climate change impacts, biodiversity and social criteria, e.g. land ownership, remain insufficiently considered in the studies reviewed;

12. A large problem in determining biomass potentials for Africa is the poor data availability.

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