Bioenergy industry in Australia
- energy from agricultural waste
- anaerobic digestion
- sustainably sourced biomass to energy projects, such as plantation timber residues and sawmill waste
- landfill gas capture and destruction
- wood pelletisation
- biofuel production.
- Australia’s states and territories have an important leadership role to play in tackling climate change and growing Australia’s renewable energy industry.
- South Australia is striding forward leading the Australian states on renewable energy.
- Victoria and NSW have moved from leaders to laggards in Australia’s renewable energy race.
- Australia has substantial opportunities for renewable energy. A lack of clear federal policy has led to a drop in renewable energy investment.
- the Australian bioenergy market
- overseas market trends
- economics of bioenergy
- technology trends.
- a growing, sustainable Australian bioenergy industry
- increased community awareness and acceptance of bioenergy
- a consistent national policy to support the industry’s development
- long-term investor certainty.
- the case for bioenergy, including benefits
- overseas benchmarks
- competition for biomass resources
- minimising, managing and using waste
- financing the industry
- air quality issues
- conversion technologies
- the potential contribution of bioenergy (including a biomass resource appraisal)
- strategies for the industry – overall and sector-specific strategies for sectors such as:
- agricultural-related wastes
- energy crops
- wood-related wastes
- firewood and wood heaters.
- National bioenergy strategy for primary industries
- Develop feedstocks that are significant, scalable, sustainable and deployable. Key feedstocks include stubble, forest residues and woody crops.
- Maintain links between feedstock research providers to share learnings, avoid duplication and encourage investment.
- Adapt the US Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) feedstock readiness tool to Australia to assist research and investment.
- Produce and maintain a Biomass Resource Atlas (as an online tool).
- Quantify key harvest and logistics cost drivers for forest residue, agriculture residue, short rotation trees and mixed feedstock supply chains.
- Develop optimised harvest system selection frameworks for forest residue, agriculture residue, short rotation trees and mixed feedstock supply chains.
- Develop and apply business models for biomass ‘brokers’.
- Support the development of the ISO standard, including the complementary mechanisms that will be required to ensure sustainability.
- Identify and prioritise the sustainability risks in bioenergy systems.
- Develop mechanisms to apply sustainability standards progressively.
- Develop an Australian standard if required.
- Apply a systematic approach to evaluate the sustainability of major regional projects.
- Establish a steering group to guide bioenergy RD&E nationally.
- Conduct desktop scientific analysis of prospective individual projects (proof of concept).
- Undertake detailed feasibility studies: local and specific research to de-risk investment.
- Attract and work with bioenergy businesses through project development.
In 2011, RIRDC and its partners developed a national research, development and extension (RD&E) strategy for primary industries in the bioenergy sector: Opportunities for primary industries in the bioenergy sector – national RD&E strategy. In 2014, the advisory forum charged with implementing the strategy published the related implementation plan which aims to guide the priorities for RD&E. The implementation plan covers the following tasks:
The November 2015 Report released by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), The Australian bioenergy and energy from waste market – Closing the Gap, claims that the Australian bioenergy and energy from waste market is under developed but has considerable potential. Bioenergy and energy from waste technologies have a long track record of cost-effectively reducing carbon emissions, improving energy productivity and generating reliable baseload renewable energy around the world. But these technologies are not widely deployed in Australia, contributing only 0.9 per cent of Australia’s electricity output, well below the OECD average of 2.4 per cent. This suggests significant potential for new investment. The CEFC estimates that the Australian bioenergy and energy from waste investment opportunity to 2020 is between $3.5 billion and $5 billion, potentially doubling the current level of installed capacity.
In November 2016, the CEFC set out in its Report Energy from Waste in Australia: a state-by-state update, the opportunities across all States in Australia for energy from waste projects. The report noted in particular, the leadership shown by New South Wales (NSW), Western Australia (WA), Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) with policies that encourage investment in energy from waste and supportive policies aimed at diverting organic waste from landfill. The report notes recently announced projects in NSW and WA valued at a total of more than $1.5 billion.
- Renewable Energy Targets
- Queensland – 50 per cent renewable energy generation by 2030 [Source].
- New South Wales – 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020 [Source].
- Victoria – 25 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2025 [Source].
- South Australia – 50 per cent renewable energy by 2025 [Source].
- ACT – 100 per cent of its electricity needs by 2020 [Source].
- Western Australia – 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020 [Source].
- Northern Territories – 50 per cent renewable energy generation by 2020 [commitment not yet implemented [at March 2017] [Source].
- Tasmania – no State specific target (National target applies) [Source].
The following states have indicated their renewable energy targets (they are compared against the National target of 20 per cent renewable energy by 2010 [Source]).
ACTStrategy 4.3 of the ACT Waste Management Strategy 2011–2025 [PDF 1 MB] is focused on expanding bioenergy generation and investigating new energy-from-waste technologies to generate energy.
Following analysis of the ACT’s waste streams and potential technologies currently available, it was estimated that 10–20% of waste streams could be better utilised for energy generation. The study found that new bioenergy capacity could be sustainably developed with currently available feedstocks and could be a cost competitive form of renewable energy for the ACT. The government is also supporting trials to determine the agronomic, carbon sequestration benefits of producing and using biochars in the ACT and surrounds.
Energy from Waste could help to achieve the Government’s waste targets of more than 80 per cent resource recovery by 2015 and a carbon neutral waste sector by 2020. New opportunities for generating energy from waste are being investigated as part of the ACT Waste Feasibility Study, which will be completed by mid-2017.
New South WalesBioenergy provides a very small proportion of energy supply in NSW. Currently, there are 34 operational bioenergy power generators, an in 2015 they produced 1.5 per cent of the total electricity generated in NSW (including ACT). The majority of NSW’s bioenergy currently comes from bagasse. Two sugar mills have installed cogeneration plants which produce electricity and heat from bagasse. Further information is available on the NSW government Department of Primary Industries (DPI) webpage Bioenergy in NSW.
In September 2013, the NSW Government released the Renewable Energy Action Plan to guide the state’s renewable energy development and to support the national target of 20% renewable energy by 2020. The NSW Government’s vision is for a secure, reliable, affordable and clean energy future for the state. The plan positions the state to increase energy from renewable sources at least cost to the energy customer and with maximum benefits to NSW. The strategy is to work closely with NSW communities and the renewable energy industry to increase renewable energy generation in NSW. The action plan has 3 goals:
- Attract renewable energy investment
- Build community support
- Attract and grow renewable energy expertise
The government reports on its progress against the plan every year and the 2016 annual report is entitled NSW Renewable Energy Action Plan Annual Report 2016 (2.14 MB PDF).
This is the third year of the plan with the report indicating 17 of the 24 actions are complete while seven more have been progressed. Details of the progress made are summarised on the Annual Report 2016 webpage.
The 2013 NSW North Coast Bioenergy Scoping Study special report [PDF 1.1 MB], produced by the Sustain Northern Rivers (SNR) Energy Working Group, examines the main bioenergy feedstocks in the region and quantifies their high‐level energy potential where possible. The study serves as a precursor to a Bioenergy Strategy, and will help SNR understand the current opportunities that exist for bioenergy in the North Coast region.
The Renewable Energy Resources Map for NSW was produced in 2016. The map shows bioenergy facilities and biomass potential. Further details here.
Northern TerritoryThere are currently no local government or industry bioenergy focussed resources available primarily for the Northern Territory.
In August 2016 the Northern Territory Labor party promised to adopt a renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2013. In December 2016 the government appointed an expert panel to provide advice and inform the development of a Roadmap to Renewables Report.
QueenslandQueensland has the largest bioenergy sector of any state, with its power stations accounting for more than half of the country’s bioenergy generation potential, according to the Clean Energy Australia Report 2013. The Queensland Government’s business and industry portal provides information on several biofuels and bioenergy research and development projects being carried out in the state. Many of the projects are collaborations between private companies and universities.
South AustraliaThe bio-energy industry is in its infancy in South Australia. RenewablesSA is an initiative of the Government of South Australia to support the further growth of state’s renewable energy industry. The government has aspirations for the state to be the nation’s leading ‘test bed’ of emerging small-scale renewable applications. RenewablesSA provides information to inform investors in renewable energy, including information about South Australia’s renewable resources and key infrastructure, land access, development approval, and connection and licensing.
In March 2015, the government commissioned consultancy group Jacobs to analyse South Australia’s bioenergy potential and produce a report and associated spatial data as a first step towards creating a substantial and sustainable bioenergy industry. The company investigated commercial conversion technologies, mapped potential biomass feedstocks for those technologies and explored the potential for new purpose-grown biomass crops. By matching biomass feedstock information to companies with a demand for both electricity and heat, Jacobs arrived at a number of ‘hotspot’ areas in the state. On 24 November 2015, the government launched the report, A bio-energy roadmap for South Australia, and an interactive bioenergy roadmap that shows locations of:
- energy demand
- waste streams
- purpose-grown biomass crops
- bioenergy hotspots
On 1 December 2015, the government released the Low Carbon Investment Plan for South Australia. The document set out how the state will achieve $10 billion in low carbon generation by 2025. The Plan is built around four key stages for supporting low carbon generation investment in South Australia. The Plan refers to the 3 Stages of the Bio-energy Roadmap.
Stage 2 of the bio-energy roadmap saw a series of local community and industry groups gathering to investigate the potential collaboration in providing feedstocks, utilising energy outputs and assessing the feasibility of options. Presentations and a video are available from these meetings.
Bioenergy Roadmap Programs – On 16 September 2016 Renewables SA announced the Bioenergy Roadmap Programs with three key components including bioenergy mentors and funding opportunities:
- Bioenergy Planner
- Bioenergy Connect, and
- Bioenergy Feasibility Fund.
Looking to the future, Stage 3 of the Roadmap will see the building of specific projects.
TasmaniaThe Tasmanian Government is supportive of the local renewable energy industry, which is the most developed in Australia. Renewable energy from hydro and wind resources accounts for 70% of the electricity produced in Tasmania. The Department of State Growth’s priorities for the bioenergy sector are to:
- facilitate development of distributed/embedded generation projects including wind, mini-hydro and biomass technologies in particular
- renewable energy based on Tasmania’s endowment of residues for the agriculture and forestry industries.
- producing ethanol from wood residues is not commercially viable
- producing wood pellets from sawmill residues has some merits and the feasibility of using pellets to heat public swimming pools, hospitals and nursing homes is being examined
- producing biogas from fish processing waste has potential.
VictoriaBioenergy, along with wind and hydro, is one of the most used renewable energy sources in Victoria. Most of the bioenergy used comes from wood and wood waste in the pulp and paper industry, and wood burnt in residential fireplaces. The Victorian Government is promoting investment in the sector to build economic resilience, improve the state’s environmental profile and diversify its energy mix. It is also supporting research into next generation biofuels which do not compete with food crops.
- the emerging market for biofuels and bioenergy in Australia
- the key developments in biofuels and bioenergy in Victoria
- Commonwealth Government initiatives and incentives stimulating biofuel and bioenergy investments in Australia
- Victoria’s multifaceted regional economy which is actively seeking diversification and is capable of supplying a range of feedstocks
- Victoria’s robust economic growth, stability, utilities and infrastructure to support these investments.
Western AustraliaThe Department of Agriculture and Food is supportive of local bioenergy projects using agricultural waste and food waste. Opportunities in WA are described in the 2014 Biomass scoping study: opportunities for agriculture in Western Australia [PDF 2.2 MB]. The Department of Finance provides information on the current and future use of bioenergy in Western Australia. Currently 7% of Western Australia’s renewable energy is produced from landfill gas and biomass.
- creating an awareness and understanding of biomass energy
- fostering interest and involvement in the biomass industry
- facilitating and developing markets
- facilitating the development of business and project opportunities
- broadening its support base to ensure its continued role in promoting biomass energy in Australia
- forming and managing groups to participate in the International Energy Agency’s Bioenergy program.
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