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IRENA Report Highlights Disparate Results of Science Assessing Biomass Potential in Africa

IRENA1 August 2013: A new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and German Biomass Research Centre (DBFZ) provides a comparative review of science on biomass resources in Africa, finding it impossible to offer a concrete assessment or figure on biomass availability due to the magnitude of differences in biomass potential reported in the literature. 

The report begins by highlighting the importance of biomass for energy in Sub-Saharan Africa, where it accounts for over 60% of the total primary energy supply, and remains at over 50% for the continent as a whole.

The results of the study found that: there are enormous ranges among reports of potential area available for energy crops, ranging from 1.5 million hectares (ha) to 150 million ha; there are large differences in assumed yields per ha fuel uncertainty over real-world potential; many studies assume increases in productivity similar to those seen in industrialized countries; studies assuming a low potential assume expected population growth and increases in consumption will not leave space for energy crop production; climate, biodiversity and social criteria such as land rights and ownership are inadequately accounted for in the literature; and one of the biggest challenges facing further research is the poor quality of available data.

These challenges resulted in authors being unable to quantify definitive findings on the availability of biomass in Africa. Rather, the report stresses the need to develop recommendations and standard scientific methods to accurately estimate bioenergy potentials. [Press release] [Publication: Biomass Potential in Africa]