Leading researchers and international organizations agree that sustainable, renewable wood bioenergy is a key tool in the global effort to mitigate climate change. Below is an ongoing, frequently updated directory of the academic research, papers and studies documenting the GHG benefits, forest growth analysis, and other positive contributions wood bioenergy is making to the energy sector.

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Environmental Research Letters (2014)

Potential greenhouse gas benefits of transatlantic wood pellet trade

Authors: Puneet Dwivedi (University of Georgia), Madhu Khanna (University of Illinois), Robert Bailis (Stockholm Environment Institute), Adrian Ghilardi (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)

Key Finding: Wood pellets for electricity generation can reduce GHG emissions in the United Kingdom between 50% and 68% compared to fossil fuels, and overall, the “use of imported wood pellets for electricity generation could help in reducing the United Kingdom’s GHG emissions.”

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Environmental Research Letters (2015)

Carbon savings with transatlantic trade in pellets: accounting for market-driven effects

Authors: Weiwei Wang (University of Illinois), Puneet Dwivedi (University of Georgia), Robert Abt (North Carolina State University) and Madhu Khanna (University of Illinois)

Key Finding: “Across different scenarios of high and low pellet demand that can be met with either forest biomass only or with forest and agricultural biomass, we find that the GHG intensity of pellet based electricity is 74% to 85% lower than that of coal-based electricity.”

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Environmental Science & Technology (2012)

Economic Approach to Assess the Forest Carbon Implications of Biomass Energy

Authors: Adam Daigneault (Landcare Research, Auckland, New Zealand), Brent Sohngen (The Ohio State University), and Roger Sedjo (Resources For the Future)

Key Finding: When you account for market factors, increased demand for wood biomass energy “increases timber prices and harvests, but reduces net global carbon emissions because higher wood prices lead to new investments in forest stocks.”

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EU Technical Expert Group on Sustainable Finance (2020)

Taxonomy: Final report of the Technical Expert Group on Sustainable Finance (March 2020)

Key Finding:

1: Bioenergy can make a “Substantial Contribution” to climate change mitigation.

2: “Forest based products can have climate mitigation benefits when used in other economic sectors (enabling), through the reduction of GHG emissions and substitution effects. Two forms of ‘substitution’ are foreseen. The substitution of GHG intensive materials with harvested wood products (HWP) (e.g. wood-based raw materials and products used in construction), and the substitution of fossil-based fuels” (42).

 

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Forest2Market (2017)

Historical Perspective on the Relationship between Demand and Forest Productivity in the US South

Key Finding: “Since the middle of  the twentieth century, the amount of  timberland—unreserved,  productive forest land—in the US South has remained stable, increasing by about 3 percent between 1953 and 2015. During this period, economic growth and increased construction spurred consumer demand for forest products, which led timber harvests—or removals—to increase  57  percent. Yet  over  this  same  period,  the  amount  of  wood  fiber—or  inventory—stored in  Southern  forests increased 108 percent.”

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Global Change Biology (2019)

The future of bioenergy

Authors: (Reid et al.) David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Stanford University

Key Finding: Waste biomass and good stewardship biomass (as practiced in the US Southeast) can reduce GHG emissions and increase sustainability.

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Global Change Biology Bioenergy (2013)

Carbon payback period and carbon offset parity point of wood pellet production in the South‐eastern United States

Authors: Jan Gerrit Geurt Jonker (University Utrecht), Martin Junginger (University Utrecht), and Andre Faaij (University Utrecht)

Key Finding: “We consider the landscape‐level carbon debt approach more appropriate for the situation in the South‐eastern United States, where softwood plantation is already in existence, and under this precondition, we conclude that the issue of carbon payback is basically nonexistent.”

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Global Change Biology Bioenergy (2017)

Wood pellets, what else? Greenhouse gas parity times of European electricity from wood pellets produced in the south-eastern United States using different softwood feedstocks

Authors: Hanssen et al. (Radboud University Nijmegen, Utrecht University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

Key Finding: Wood pellets reduce GHG emissions within 0-29 years, with commercial thinnings and harvest residues leading to GHG benefits within several years.

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IEA Bioenergy

On the Timing of Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Benefits of Forest-Based Bioenergy

Key Finding: “The GHG effects of forest bioenergy should be investigated at the scale applicable to the issue concerned: policymakers act to influence developments at the international, national, and larger regional scale, thus the GHG effects of forest-based bioenergy should be determined across the whole national or regional estate, that is, at landscape scale.”

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IEA Bioenergy (2017)

March 2017: Response to Chatham House report “Woody Biomass for Power and Heat: Impacts on the Global Climate”

Key Finding: Most IPCC pathways to reducing global GHG emissions “involve a large share of bioenergy. Biomass is a renewable resource with large potential for expansion, and unlike other renewable resources, biomass can be stored and converted to different energy carriers. It can thus play a critical role in facilitating transition to low-carbon energy systems.”

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Journal of Industrial Ecology (2010)

Accounting for Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Bioenergy Systems

Author: Gregg Marland, Appalachain State University

Key Finding: “The IPCC inventories do not exempt bioenergy systems. They very purposefully account for emissions from fossil fuels where and when they occur, and they account for changes in biological stocks of carbon where and when they occur.”

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Journal of Sustainable Forestry (2014)

Carbon, Fossil Fuel, and Biodiversity Mitigation With Wood and Forests

Authors: Chadwick Dearing Oliver (Yale), Nedal T. Nassar (Yale), Bruce R. Lippke (University of Washington), and James B. Mccarter (University of Washington).

Key Finding: “Maximizing forest CO2 sequestration may not be compatible with biodiversity. More CO2 can be sequestered synergistically in the products or wood energy and landscape together than in the unharvested landscape. Harvesting sustainably at an optimum stand age will sequester more carbon in the combined products, wood energy, and forest than harvesting sustainably at other ages.”

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National Association of University Forest Resource Programs (2019)

Science Fundamentals of Forest Biomass Carbon Accounting

Key Finding: “The  long-term  benefits  of  forest biomass  energy  are  well-established  in  science literature,” the letter reads. “Forest  biomass  energy   yields significant  net  decreases  in  overall  carbon  accumulation  in  the  atmosphere  over time  compared  to  fossil  fuels.”

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Renewable Energy Association

Bioenergy in the UK –The state of play

Key Findings:

1: “Bioenergy is recognised as a key renewable energy technology, and an essential component of a low carbon energy economy, internationally and in the UK, playing an important role in providing electricity, heat and transport fuels.

2: In the last 10 years bioenergy’s contribution to the UK has grown strongly, helped by a supportive policy framework. Bioenergy is the largest contributing renewable technology in the UK, providing 7.4% of primary  energy supply and: 11% of UK electricity 4% of energy used to produce heat 2% of energy needed in the transport sector.

3: Bioenergy has led to a “4% reduction in UK greenhouse gas emissions.”

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Science Advances (2020)

Forests: Carbon sequestration, biomass energy, or both?

Authors: Alice Favero (Georgia Institute of Technology), Adam Daigneault (University of Maine), and Brent Sohngen (Ohio State University)

Key Finding: “Increased bioenergy demand increases forest carbon stocks thanks to afforestation activities and more intensive management relative to a no-bioenergy case…Incentivizing both wood-based bioenergy and forest sequestration could increase carbon sequestration and conserve natural forests simultaneously.”

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Society of American Foresters (2014)

Forest Carbon Accounting Considerations in US Bioenergy Policy

Authors: Reid A. Miner (NCASI), Robert C. Abt (North Carolina State University), Jim L. Bowyer (University of Minnesota), Marilyn A. Buford (USDA Forest Service), Robert W. Malmsheimer (SUNY ESF), Jay O’Laughlin, Elaine E. Oneil, Roger A. Sedjo, and Kenneth E. Skog (US Forest Service)

Key Findings:

1: “As long as land remains in forest, long-term  carbon  mitigation  benefits  are  derived from sustainably managed working forests that provide an ongoing output of wood and other biomass to produce long-lived products and bio-energy, displacing GHG-intensive alternatives.”

2: “The demand for wood keeps land in forest, provides incentives  for  expanding  forests  and improving forest productivity, and supports in-vestments  in  sustainable  forest  management that can help offset the forest carbon impacts of increased demand.”

3: “GHG benefits from using forest residues to produce electricity are generally observed in less than a decade or two.”

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UK Committee on Climate Change (2020)

Land use: Policies for a Net Zero UK (2020)

Key Findings:

1: “Sustainably managed forests are important for reducing emissions across the economy. They provide a store of carbon in the landscape and harvested wood can be used sustainably for combustion and carbon sequestration in the energy sector…(33)”

2: “In all scenarios for the achievement of net-zero, sustainably harvested biomass can play a significant role, provided it is prioritised for the most valuable end-uses (98).”

3: “Globally, a scale-up in bioenergy production is needed to meet the Paris Agreements goals, and the UK should be at the forefront of developing and demonstrating good governance practices (100).”

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United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2019)

IPCC 2019 Special Report on “Climate Change and Land”

Key Findings:

1: “Sustainable forest management can reduce the extent of forest conversion to non-forest uses. Sustainable forest management aimed at providing timber, fiber, biomass, non-timber resources, and other ecosystem functions and services, can lower GHG emissions and can contribute to adaptation. (high confidence).” (SPM B5.4, page 25)

2: “All  assessed  modelled  pathways  that limit warming to 1.5ºC or well below 2°C require land-based mitigation and land-use change, with most including different combinations of reforestation, afforestation, reduced deforestation,  and  bioenergy.” (SPM B7, page 26)

3: “In the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fiber, or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit…”. (Ch 4, 4.8.5, page 66)

 

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University of Georgia/University of Illinois (2019)

Is wood pellet-based electricity less carbon-intensive than coal-based electricity? It depends on perspectives, baselines, feedstocks, and forest management practices

Authors: Dr. Puneet Dwivedi, Associate Professor, Sustainability Sciences, University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry, Madhu Khanna, Professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois, and Madisen Fuller, Research Assistant, University of Georgia

Key Finding: “We show that with either a stand or landscape perspective, using some or all of the biomass for electricity generation will lead to a net higher carbon stock on the land than leaving trees unharvested after a break-even period. The length of the break-even period is shorter when a higher proportion of the tree is used for wood pellets; it is a decade or two with the use of pulpwood, and two to three years with the use of whole trees in the manufacture of wood pellets.”

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University of Georgia/US Forest Service (2019)

Annual Review of Resource Economics: Ascertaining the Trajectory of Wood-Based Bioenergy Development in the United States Based on Current Economic, Social, and Environmental Constructs

Authors: Dr. Puneet Dwivedi, Associate Professor, Sustainability Sciences, University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry, Md Farhad H. Masum, Teaching Assistant, University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry, and Kamalakanta Sahoo, Research Associate, US Forest Service

Key Finding: Wood-based bioenergy can yield carbon savings of 77% to 99% compared to fossil fuel alternatives, especially coal.

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US Department of Energy/North Carolina State University (2017)

Reference scenarios for evaluating wood pellet production in the Southeastern United States

Authors: Esther S. Parish (US Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Laboratory), Virginia H. Dale (US Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Laboratory), Keith L. Kline (US Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Laboratory), and Robert C. Abt (North Carolina State University)

Key Finding: “…the lack of a market for wood products in the SE US can lead to unhealthy, unmanaged forests or forest conversion to other uses.”

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