Miscanthus biomass production for energy in Europe and its potential contribution to decreasing fossil fuel carbon emissions


John Clifton-Brown, tel. 00 353 1 6083740, fax 00 353 1 6081147, e-mail: jcbrown@tcd.ie


Field trials throughout Europe over the past 15 years have confirmed the potential for high biomass production from Miscanthus, a giant perennial rhizomatous grass with C4 photosynthesis. However, policies to promote the utilization of biomass crops require yield estimates that can be scaled up to regional, national and continental areas. The only way in which this information can be reliably provided is through the use of productivity models. Here, we describe MISCANMOD, a productivity model, which was used in conjunction with a GIS to plot potential, non-water-limited yields across Europe. Modelled rainfed yields were also calculated using a water balance approach based on FAO estimates of plant available water in the soil. The observed yields were consistent with modelled yields at 20 trial sites across Europe. We estimate that if Miscanthus was grown on 10% of suitable land area in the European Union (EU15), 231 TWh yr−1 of electricity could be generated, which is 9% of the gross electricity production in 2000. Using the same scenario, the total carbon mitigation could be 76 Mt C yr−1, which is about 9% of the EU total C emissions for the 1990 Kyoto Protocol baseline levels.