Sustainability of Bioenergy – Mapping the Risks & Benefits to Inform Future Bioenergy Systems.

Andrew James Welfle* (Corresponding Author), Alberto Almena, Muhammad Naveed Arshad, Scott William banks, Isabella Butnar, Katie Jane Chong, Samuel J. G. Cooper, Helen Daly, Samira Garcia Freites, Faith Güleç, Christopher Hardacre, Robert A. Holland, Lan Lan, Chai Siah Lee, Peter A. Robertson, Rebecca Rowe, Anita Shepherd, Nathan Skillen, Silvia Tedesco, Patricia ThornleyPedro Verdía Barbará, Ian Watson, Orla Williams, Mirjam Roeder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Working paperPreprint


Bioenergy is widely included in energy strategies for its GHG mitigation potential. Bioenergy technologies will likely have to be deployed at scale to meet decarbonisation targets, and consequently biomass will have to be increasingly grown/mobilised. Sustainability risks associated with bioenergy may intensify with increasing deployment and where feedstocks are sourced through
international trade. This research applies the Bioeconomy Sustainability Indicator Model (BSIM) to map and analyse the performance of bioenergy across 126 sustainability issues, evaluating 16 bioenergy case studies that reflect the breadth of biomass resources, technologies, energy vectors
and bio-products. The research finds common trends in sustainability performance across projects that can inform bioenergy policy and decision making. Potential sustainability benefits are identified for People (jobs, skills, income, energy access); for Development (economy, energy, land utilisation);
for Natural Systems (soil, heavy metals), and; for Climate Change (emissions, fuels). Also, consistent trends of sustainability risks where focus is required to ensure the viability of bioenergy projects, including for infrastructure, feedstock mobilisation, techno-economics and carbon stocks. Emission
mitigation may be a primary objective for bioenergy, this research finds bioenergy projects can provide potential benefits far beyond emissions - there is an argument for supporting/promoting/replicating projects based on the ecosystem services and/or economic stimulation they may deliver. Also given the broad dynamics and characteristics of bioenergy projects,
a rigid approach of assessing sustainability may be incompatible. Awarding ‘credit’ across a broader range of sustainability indicators in addition to requiring minimum performances in key areas, may be more effective at ensuring bioenergy sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
Publication statusSubmitted - 28 Jan 2023


  • Sustainable
  • indicators
  • Biomass
  • Trends
  • Policy
  • Modelling


Dive into the research topics of 'Sustainability of Bioenergy – Mapping the Risks & Benefits to Inform Future Bioenergy Systems.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this