Market Snapshot: Bioenergy use could double in Canada’s net-zero future

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Release date: 2024-02-21

Bioenergy is an important component of Canada’s energy mix, accounting for around 7% of Canada’s end-useDefinition* energy demand in 2020 (or 733 petajoules (PJ), this includes end uses of biofuels, bioelectricityDefinition*, and biohydrogenDefinition*).Footnote 1 Canada’s Energy Future 2023: Energy Supply and Demand Projections to 2050 (EF2023) looks at how Canada’s energy system might change from 2023 to 2050 in three different scenarios: Current Measures (CM)Footnote 2, Global Net-zero (GNZ)Footnote 3, and Canada Net-zero (CNZ).Footnote 4 Bioenergy use increases the most in the CNZ scenario, rising to 1,645 PJ by 2050, making up 16% of Canada’s total end-use energy demand. In the GNZ scenario, the bioenergy use increases to 1,497 PJ by 2050, with a percentage bioenergy contribution even higher than CNZ, at 17% in 2050. The percentage contribution is higher in GNZ scenario since the total end-use energy is lower in GNZ compared to CNZ. (Figure 1)

Figure 1: Bioenergy contribution to end-use demand in net-zero scenarios

Source and Description

Source: EF2023

Description: This combined stacked bar graph illustrates bioenergy use in 2020, 2035, and 2050 in petajoules for the three different scenarios, CM (Current Measures), CNZ (Canada Net-zero), and GNZ (Global Net-zero). The bioenergy amounts are shown under eight categories: biohydrogen, bioelectricity, sustainable aviation fuel, biodiesel, ethanol, heating and other, renewable diesel, and renewable natural gas (RNG). The right axis shows the percentage contribution to end-use energy from all bioenergy types (black bullets). The figure shows that bioenergy use increases in all 3 scenarios with highest increase seen in CNZ scenario. Sustainable aviation fuel, RNG, bioelectricity, and biohydrogen are main contributors to increasing demand in CNZ and GNZ scenarios. Biodiesel and renewable diesel use see a moderate increase, whereas ethanol use sees a decrease in CNZ and GNZ scenarios.

Bioenergy types in EF2023

EF2023 considers eight end-use bioenergy types, of which six are biofuels as listed below:

The other two bioenergy types include, electricity produced from biomass (bioelectricity)Definition*, and hydrogen produced from biomass (biohydrogen)Definition*

Resource availability for bioenergy

FeedstocksFootnote 6 for bioenergy are diverse, with four residual feedstock types:

And two purpose grown or managed feedstock types:

Because both feedstocks and bioenergy (especially biofuels) are diverse, determining bioenergy supply is complex. CER’s Bioenergy Supply Model (CER-BSM) assesses detailed biomass resource inventories to connect different bioenergy feedstocks with bioenergy types in each EF2023 scenario.

Icons for forest residue, forestry, crop residue, energy crops, livestock residue, and urban wastes.

Figure 2: Biomass feedstocks available and used for bioenergy

Source and Description

Source: Canada Energy Regulator Bioenergy Supply Model (CER-BSM) Results

Description: The stacked bar graph shows bioenergy supply for 2020, 2030, 2040, and 2050 under 3 categories: Residual Feedstock - Available, Residual Feedstock - Used, Energy Crops and Forestry - Used. Each bar graph is broken down into six feedstock types: livestock residue, urban wastes, forestry residue, crop residue, forestry, and energy crops. The graph can be visualized for the three scenarios: CM (Current Measures), CNZ (Canada Net-zero), and GNZ (Global Net-zero). The values are in primary energyDefinition* and in petajoules. The figure shows a gradual increase in both available and used residual feedstocks for all 3 scenarios. Highest residual feedstock use is seen in GNZ scenario, with CNZ scenario a close second. CM scenario sees a moderate increase of residual feedstock use. Energy crops and Forestry use also increases for all 3 scenarios with higher increases seen in CNZ and GNZ scenarios, with CNZ scenario being slightly higher. CM scenario sees a moderate increase in energy crops and forestry feedstock use.

Disclaimer: The residual feedstock values in the graph do not include animal oils and fats.

Figure 2 shows the amounts of feedstock available, and the amount, used from 2020 to 2050. In 2050 in the GNZ scenario, residual feedstock is used about 150% more than in 2020, with 57% of available residual feedstock being converted to bioenergyFootnote 13. In addition, use of energy crops and forestry for bioenergy increases by around 350% and 200%, respectively, in the GNZ scenario. Higher use of energy crops and forestry results in more land needed for producing bioenergy feedstocks. In the GNZ scenario, agricultural landFootnote 14 used for energy crops, as a percentage of total agricultural land, is expected to grow from 0.3% in 2020, to around 1.2% in 2050. In addition, the percentage of total wood supplyDefinition* directly used for energy increases from 4.3%Footnote 15 in 2020 to 8.7% in 2050 in the GNZ scenario. Imports of liquid biofuels (biodiesel, ethanol, renewable diesel, and sustainable aviation fuel) also contribute to satisfy Canadian bioenergy end-use demand. Currently around 50% of the Canadian liquid biofuels are importedFootnote 16. CER-BSM results show that using domestic feedstocks biofuel import contribution can be reduced to 31% and 21% in GNZ and CNZ scenarios respectively by 2050.To satisfy bioenergy demand by 2050 in a net-zero future, greater use of residual feedstocks, and land for bioenergy feedstock production, are likely required.

Canada Energy Regulator – Bioenergy Supply Model (CER-BSM)

CER-BSM is a model that considers over 30 different biomass feedstocks and optimizes feedstock use for different bioenergy types in each province. The feedstock used for each bioenergy type depends on several things, such as feedstock suitability and availability, demand and price of the biofuels, preprocessing requirements, required land use, and production technology. CER-BSM follows the regulatory and policy framework highlighted in EF2023 for each of the scenarios. CER-BSM does not consider social or consumer behaviors, and only provides a technically and economically feasible solution. Future developments in CER-BSM may include some, or all the above, and may yield different results from what is published here.

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