Biomass is a renewable resource that can be utilized as an energy carrier as well as for the production of materials. Due to the limited availability of fossil fuels, the biomass demand is expected to rise significantly in the future. In particular, the cultivation of energy crops is posing new problems with regard to ethical and environmental questions and is fostering debates on conflicting targets for the safeguarding of food, fuel, feed, and ecosystems. The use of biomass is thus linked to considerable societal and ecological impacts that constitute major challenges with regard to a sustainable development and to the avoidance of competitions for the utilization of disposable surfaces and resources.
Therefore, insuring a sustainable utilization of biomass essentially requires a comprehensive approach taking into account the entire value chain, different alternative uses, regulatory frameworks and business conditions, as well as the specific environmental and social situation on a local level. While various stakeholders at present are already tapping the Upper Rhine Region’s bio-energy potential partially, neither a consistent strategy for sustainable biomass utilization nor a network for environmental research for the region as a whole is existent.
The project aims to establish the tri-national Upper Rhine Region (URR) as one of the most innovative regions in Europe in the field of sustainable biomass utilization. In practice, this involves the promotion of biomass as a renewable energy source and/or as a raw material by drafting a "Roadmap for sustainable biomass utilization in the URR", to be used as an action plan and a strategic guideline for the implementation of sustainable biomass projects.
The specific objectives targeted during this action within the Scientific Offensive of the Trinational Metropolis Region of the Upper Rhine (TMO) are to:
- Study all relevant aspects of the biomass value chain (production, transportation, utilization)
- Take into account the different development alternatives through scenarios
- Analyze the potential impacts in terms of sustainability criteria
- Launch local dialog on the advantages and disadvantages of using biomass
Concomitantly, an interdisciplinary tri-national network of scientists from across the URR is to be created. This working group will tackle environmental issues in its native region together with political and industrial players and local residents. In order to create a long-term network, it will be formally established as the "Upper Rhine Environmental Research Institute" (URERI).
Key activities of ITAS
ITAS′s main task was to elaborate and to analyze scenarios whose purpose is to describe possible developments of the production and usage of biomass for bioenergy in the Upper Rhine Region (URR) until 2030. The explorative scenarios are based on different developments of national and European framing conditions in the areas of energy, agricultural and nature conservation policies as well as developments of bioenergy technologies. Changes in land use, agricultural and forestry biomass production, and applied biomass utilization pathways are analyzed with the scenarios. A sustainability assessment of the results was conducted.
In addition to that, together with different project partners, ITAS has analyzed existing models for developing inventories of biomass to assess their applicability on the Upper Rhine Region and has also taking part in assembling a site-specific stock inventory for agricultural biomass in particular. On that basis, the project partners had continued working on techno-economic modeling and impact analysis (LCA) of biomass usage according to the different scenarios.
Relating to the roadmap, ITAS′s task was to involve the most important stakeholders in the field of biomass with regard to the three sub-areas of the URR – afore identified and analyzed by the project partners - into the process of validating the results of the scenarios. The respective results, in combination with current framework conditions and sustainability targets, were considered during the final elaboration of the roadmap for sustainable biomass utilization in the URR.
Roadmap for sustainable biomass utilisation in the Upper Rhine Region
Schumacher, Kira (Hrsg.); Fichtner, Wolf (Hrsg.); Schultmann, Frank (Hrsg.) (2017): Innovations for sustainable biomass utilisation in the Upper Rhine Region (Produktion und Energie 18). KIT Scientific Publishing https://www.ksp.kit.edu/9783731504238