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Opportunities and barriers for international bioenergy trade

Published: May 2010

Study written for IEA Bioenergy. A shortened version of this report has been submitted to Energy Policy. This background report contains additional information, including the original survey and all answers provided by the respondents.

Martin Junginger1,*, Jinke van Dam1, Simonetta Zarrilli2, Fatin Ali Mohamed3, Didier Marchal4, and Andre Faaij1
1 Copernicus Institute, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 2, 3584 CS Utrecht, The Netherlands
2 UNCTAD, Palais des Nations, CH -1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
3 UNIDO, UNIDO Headquarters, Vienna International Centre, A-1400 Vienna, Austria
4 Walloon Agricultural Research Centre, Chaussée de Namur 146, B-5030 Gembloux, Belgium
* Corresponding author, Tel. +31-30-2537613, h.m.junginger@uu.nl


In the past years, the international trade of various bioenergy commodities has grown rapidly, yet this growth is also hampered by a number of barriers. The aim of this paper is to obtain an up-to-date overview of what market actors currently perceive as major opportunities and barriers for the current and future development of international bioenergy trade. The work focuses on three internationallytraded bioenergy commodities: bioethanol, biodiesel and wood pellets. Data was collected through an internet-based questionnaire. The majority of the 141 respondents had an industrial background, with other contributions from NGO’s scientists, policy makers and other groups (e.g. certifiers). Geographically, two thirds were from (mainly Western) Europe, with other minor contributions from all other continents. Results show that import tariffs and sustainability criteria are perceived as major barriers for the trade of bioethanol (and to a lesser extend of biodiesel), while logistics are seen as a major obstacle, especially for wood pellets. Development of technical standards was deemed more as an opportunity than as a barrier for all three commodities. Phytosanitary measures were not an issue for any of the investigated commodities, but may prevent the trade of other (mainly solid and unrefined) biomass, such as wood chips. Most important drivers for international biomass trade were high (and strongly fluctuating) oil prices, and strong global policies on a) greenhouse gas emission reductions, b) the use of biomass for heating and electricity, and c) the use of biofuels for transportation. Concluding, some barriers for bioenergy trader are commodity specific, and will need specific actions to overcome. As a first step, import tariffs for biofuels could be reduced or abolished, linked to multi-national trade agreements and harmonization (including provisions on technical standards and sustainability requirements) which might provide the necessary preconditions for further sustained growth of international bioenergy trade.

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This project is implemented through
the CENTRAL EUROPE Programme co-financed by the ERDF