Fuels of various kinds are used for the production of heat, electricity, cooling and motor fuels.
Both in Sweden and internationally, there is pressure to reduce the use of fossil fuels and to increase the use of biofuels. Research is concentrated on fuels from forests and agricultural land. A greater quantity of biomass needs to be produced in an ecologically and economically sustainable manner. Costs need to be reduced in all parts of the various system chains, from fuel production to delivered heat, electricity or motor fuel. Efficiency needs to be improved and resources used more efficiently.
Use of bioenergy increasing worldwide
Forests and agricultural land are gigantic solar collectors as a result of the ability of green plants to capture and store solar energy. Plant biomass is an excellent fuel, and returns no more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere when it is burnt than it has absorbed while growing.
Oil, coal and natural gas supply 87 % of the world's energy needs, in comparison with which the use of biofuels is low. However, demand is increasing for a number of reasons, such as many countries wanting to reduce their dependence on oil and their carbon dioxide emissions. Various policy measures are being used which, together with the high price of oil, encourage industry and consumers to use more biofuels. The EU has set targets for the use of renewable energy, with bioenergy playing a major part. Farmers are now also better paid for the production of biofuels. The use of biofuels in Sweden has doubled since the 1970s, with substantial research programmes having contributed to this development. Sweden now has access to fuels and technologies that are available, efficient and environmentally benign, but there are still substantial needs.
The supply of biofuels can be doubled
Increasing the use of biofuels necessitates supply from sustainable sources. On the basis of various investigations and assumptions, it should be possible to increase the supply of biofuels in Sweden from 112 TWh in 2005 to about 170 TWh by 2020. By 2050, it should be possible to double the supply, to about 230 TWh. More efficient forestry should make it possible to increase the production of forest fuels, both from primary production as well as in the form of by-products from the forest industry, while agriculture can deliver crops such as Salix, hybrid aspen, grains, oilseeds, energy grass such as reed canary grass, and various by-products from the foodstuffs chain. Some scenarios assume a significant increase in production from arable land.