24. Biomass – Aspects of Global Resources and Political Opportunities

  1. Prof. Detlef Stolten2,3 and
  2. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Viktor Scherer4
  1. Gustav Melin

Published Online: 21 JUN 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9783527673872.ch24

Transition to Renewable Energy Systems

Transition to Renewable Energy Systems

How to Cite

Melin, G. (2013) Biomass – Aspects of Global Resources and Political Opportunities, in Transition to Renewable Energy Systems (eds D. Stolten and V. Scherer), Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim, Germany. doi: 10.1002/9783527673872.ch24

Editor Information

  1. 2

    Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, IEF-3: Fuel Cells, Leo-Brandt-Straße, IEF-3: Fuel Cells, 52425 Jülich, Germany

  2. 3

    Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, IEK-3 Institut für En. & Klimaforschung, Wilhelm-Johnen-Str., 52428 Jülich, Germany

  3. 4

    Ruhr-Universität Bochum LS f. Energieanlagen, IB 3/126 Universitätsstr. 150 LS f. Energieanlagen, IB 3/126 44780 Bochum Germany

Author Information

  1. Svebio, Holländargatan 17, 111 60 Stockholm, Sweden

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 21 JUN 2013
  2. Published Print: 28 MAY 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9783527332397

Online ISBN: 9783527673872



  • biomass;
  • food production;
  • global arable land;
  • global forests;
  • legislation


We tend to believe that we are not able to produce enough food on the globe. This paper show that global grain production has been growing steadily since the 1960's, and since grain demand has grown less, the use of arable land peaked in 1980 and has since then decreased. Grain production in Western Europe and in the USA has increased from one tons per hectare a hundred years ago to a level of about 7 tons per hectare. In Brazil, the average grain yield was 1,4 ton/ha in the 1960's and 3,8 ton/ha in 2010. The production capacity is expected to continue to grow together with the overall economic development in Brazil. The grain production in Africa is still on 1,4 ton cereal per hectare and year in 2010 but are expected to grow as in the rest of the world.

Sustainable biomass is today available in the amounts that it is demanded and therefor you can argue that sufficient amounts are available. The potential for increased use is however tremendous. The limits are set not by volume but by price as for any product on the global market. If the demand and use of biomass for energy increases the price on biomass will increase and then farmers and foresters will invest in production capacity to produce more biomass. So increased biomass prices will lead to investments and increased production will eventually result in falling prices. Also another result of increased prices is change of actions and changes of behaviour resulting in less demand.

A similar situation as in global grain production is valid for global biomass potential and markets. There has been too little demand for biomass for energy due to cheap fossil fuels. Therefore it is difficult to say which role biomass for energy can play. The potential for biomass from agriculture and forests are certainly a lot larger than most people believe. Now demand must develop in order to make people invest in producing biomass for energy. So far the price on wood has been too low to bear any investments. Actually there is no mature market for round wood globally. More than 90 percent of the global industrial round wood use is locally sourced.

To make use of the fantastic potential of all different types of renewable energy it is the politicians mission to create the demand to make the renewables develop. In Sweden the most important measure has been the carbon dioxide tax. It has shown to be very useful and it is one of the most important reasons why bioenergy has surpassed oil as the largest energy source in Sweden. In 2011 bioenergy reached 32 percent of the total energy use in Sweden and renewables are now around 50 percent of energy use. The carbon tax makes unwanted carbon emissions more expensive. It doesn't give priority to a specific renewable energy source, but gives all solutions that reduce carbon emissions better competitiveness. Another benefit is that it also improves the government's budget. Carbon tax is a governmental income and not a cost like most different types of renewable support mechanisms.