OPINION EDITORIAL: Originally published in The Advertiser.
THE discussions about renewable power sources usually focus on wind and solar but there is another logical option for South Australia which is accessible, economical, renewable and — importantly — available 24 hours a day. It is bioenergy.
Bioenergy can be produced from wood waste, offcuts and residues from forest product operations and is a resource we have in abundance in this state.
Globally, bioenergy accounts for 77% of all renewable energy and woody biomass accounts for 87% of that figure.
The International Energy Agency estimates that bioenergy could provide 7.5% of world electricity generation by the year 2050, and heat from bioenergy could provide 15% of global final energy consumption in industry and 20% in the building sector.
And yet Australia barely uses bioenergy produced from wood waste at all.
Renewable bioenergy can be in the form of electricity or industrial heat.
South Australia has vast sustainably-managed forest plantations.
Bioenergy from wood waste from the associated processing facilities could fuel electricity or industrial heat production that has traditionally been sourced from fossil-fuels.
With minimal conversion, some existing fossil-fuelled energy plants could be replaced or co-fuelled by renewable wood waste.
A number of forest product manufacturers in the South East of South Australia already use bioenergy to fuel their operations.
For example, industrial heat from biomass is used to fuel sawn-timber drying kilns, reducing the call on wholesale power from the grid.
But so much more could be achieved.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that over the long term, a sustainably managed working forest, with carbon stored in products and residues used for energy, is actually one of the very best things we can and should do about climate change.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation describes wood as “the most important single source of renewable energy”, and “as important as all other renewable energy sources altogether (hydro, geothermal, wastes, biogas, solar and liquid biofuels).”
Clearly, bioenergy needs to be better recognised as part of the solution to current power problems.
Responsible governments should be supporting its development.
How does bioenergy work?
· Sunlight feeds trees and plants which store energy in their cells
· This energy is used to create pellets which are burnt for fuel
· The wood pellets have low moisture content so burn very cleanly
· Bioenergy from wood waste is renewable and carbon neutral when the pellet source material comes from sustainably managed forests and wood waste.
State Manager, AFPA-SA