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Can renewable energy sources power the world?
Can renewable energy sources power the world?

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9 Costing bioenergy

For most renewable energy systems, the initial capital cost is the major component of the energy cost. However bioenergy systems, unlike many other renewable energy technologies, can also have significant fuel costs. Energy crops, for example, must be planted, fertilised, protected against weeds and pests, harvested and transported.

On the other hand, EfW may have negative fuel costs in the form of savings in payments for disposal of wastes.

Table 5 Estimated costs of biofuels and the costs of fossil fuels (Biofuel prices in US cents per litre excluding any possible taxes)
Fuel Type2006 (price/c l-1)2030 (price/cl-1)
Petrol excluding tax4560
Petrol including tax (Europe)150200
Petrol including tax (USA)8080
Ethanol from sugar cane25502535
Ethanol from maize60803555
Ethanol from sugar beet60804060
Ethanol from wheat70954565
Ethanol from lignocellulose801102565
Biodiesel from animal fats40554950
Biodiesel from oilseeds701004075

In 2008, the UK Royal Society produced estimates of current and possible future costs of a range of biofuels. Ethanol from sugar cane is the cheapest biofuel, with biodiesel from surplus animal fats a reasonably close second. The data suggested that ethanol from lignocellulose would ultimately (by around 2030) be comparable in cost to ethanol from sugar cane. (The Royal Society, 2008)

Since then progress toward parity between fossil fuel and biofuel costs in the transport domain have slowed and even reversed as crude oil prices have retreated from the historic highs of 2008 and 2011 – 2014 and biofuel costs, sensitive to feedstock prices, have stagnated rather than falling as predicted. While certain fuels in specific regions – such as ethanol from sugar cane in Brazil – are competitive it is anticipated that incentives, in the form of subsidies, will be needed for the foreseeable future. However, this is highly dependent on the taxation régime for fossil fuels. (IEA, 2016)

Lastly for this week’s topics you will take a look at the future prospects for bioenergy.