The new year has begun. I wish you a happy, healthy and successful year 2012! Hopefully it will be a fruitful year for the further development of bioenergy. It will definitely be an exciting year. In this article I have put together a small outlook on what bioenergy players can expect in the very young year. The focus of my forecast is primarily on Germany, but also include international trends.

Below I have listed 10 developments and trends that I think will be important hubs for the sectors of gaseous, liquid and solid bioenergy in 2012. Of course, many unexpected developments and innovations will surprise us even more, whereby the following 10 points will certainly make for particularly loud tones.

1. The entry into force of the EEG 2012 changes the biogas landscape

On January 1, 2012 the time had come and the amendment to the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), which was passed last year, came into force.
The changed legal framework for the promotion of renewable energies in Germany will also change the bioenergy sector in the long term. The gaseous and solid bioenergy sources have received new feed-in rates, which will result in a shift in the selection of the plant types, plant sizes and plant substrates (more waste and by-products). The funding of liquid bioenergy sources was unfortunately completely abolished in the EEG 2012.

We can expect more efficient plant concepts with a higher utilization of the heat generated and the introduction of a controversial corn cap in response to criticism from residents of biogas plants, especially in northern Germany.

The aim of the EEG amendment is also to accelerate the market integration of renewable energies into the existing energy system. Let us hope that the certainly occurring start-up complications can be quickly overcome and the emancipation of the renewables progresses.

You can find more here Information on the EEG amendment 2012 and the impact on the bioenergy industry.

2. Mini biogas plants and biomethane projects will ensure growth in the biogas industry

The development of gaseous bioenergy in Germany and the increase in biogas plants have been enormously successful in the past 3 years. With the changes in the EEG 2012, this growth rally will probably stop for now, or at least be slowed down considerably.

Nevertheless, there are driving forces within the biogas industry, which will also contribute to growth in the industry this year. Perhaps the total output of electrical power from biogas (currently around 2,800 MW) will not increase significantly, but the number of biogas plants will continue to increase.

The following 3 core topics will ensure orders from plant manufacturers and planning offices:

  • Planning and implementation of Mini biogas plants up to 75 kW
  • Expansion of biogas plants to bio natural gas plants (Processing and feeding of biomethane into the natural gas network)
  • Repowering existing biogas plants with improved plant technology. This measure has the greatest potential for increasing the share of gaseous bioenergy in electricity production without having to significantly increase the number of plants. You can find a good description of the situation in Lower Saxony in one Article on Top Agrar.

I see that as problematic Classification of manure as waste when used in biogas plants. This reassessment of Gülle could paralyze the expansion of the newly introduced mini-biogas plants. Rapid but reasonable solutions are required here.

3. Aviation will give new impetus to the sale of biofuels

Its economic use is particularly important for the success of bioenergy. I would like to mention the use of biofuels as a good example. Only when the consumption of biofuels continues to rise will other production facilities be built. Biofuels prices will continue to fall and consumer interest in response will increase. As a result, investments in research and development of biofuels will increase.

This spiral is independent of whether we focus on first, second or third generation biofuels. The use and consumption of biofuels is the key to their success. This is the only way we can develop better and better biofuels in the medium term.

That is why I am pleased, with all the additional pressure that is first coming to the airlines, that European aviation is starting this year included in EU emissions trading has been. The cost per ton of aviation fuel is then directly influenced by the amount of carbon dioxide emitted.

When looking for alternatives to cushion the resulting increase in costs and reduce CO2 emissions, the airlines primarily consider the use of biofuels. The first test flights with biofuels in civil aviation were successfully completed in 2011 and worldwide.

This partnership and win-win situation between civil aviation and the biofuels industry will be a great pleasure for both sides.

Comic Maya-Kalendar 2012 für Bioenergie Prognose Artikel

"2012 will not be a year of decline, but another year of new beginnings for bioenergy"

4. IPOs support larger production plants for next generation biofuels

We saw US companies go public on the biofuel market in 2011. The Renewable Energy Group, KIOR and Solazyme, for example, ventured to go public and followed the biofuel companies Gevo, Amyris and Codexis. The investment opportunities for the development of bioenergetic products can thus be significantly expanded.

More companies will follow in 2012 to provide direct financial support for the biofuels market from bioenergy enthusiasts or interested investors. The hottest candidates for IPOs are the US companies Genomatica, Elevance, Fulcrum and Mascoma.

The development of next-generation biofuels is also being rapidly promoted by the biofuel companies' IPOs, and several costly processes and technologies can be developed in parallel.

As early as 2012, we may be impressed by gaseous biofuels, which are produced by the gasification of biomass (syngas, HTC) getting produced. Bioethanol manufacturers will also expand their focus on high-energy molecules such as butanol. In any case, more commercial plants will be built to produce next generation biofuels.

From a German perspective, second generation biofuels were a rather tragic topic in 2011 and with the Choren Industries GmbH one of the greatest hopes for the production of biofuels of the next generation had to file for bankruptcy. I would like to exclude bio natural gas from this assessment for 2011, because bio natural gas can partly be produced from very innovative substrates and can play an important role among the next generation BKS.

I am excited to see how the Süd-Chemie AG demonstration plant for the production of cellulose ethanol in Straubing will develop. I keep my fingers crossed that it will be a very successful year in which the engineers and scientists can remove many obstacles on the way to even better biofuels.

5th amendment of the KWKG and EEWärmeG as well as a new EEGasG strengthen the legal framework of bioenergy

From a German perspective, three laws and amendments will attract the attention of bioenergy actors in 2012:

• Amendment of the Combined Heat and Power Act (KWKG-Amendment)
• Amendment to the Renewable Energies Heat Act (EEWärmeG amendment)
• Bill for a Renewable Energy Gas Act (EEGasG)

All 3 laws can help to further improve the framework conditions for the use of bioenergy. Use your voice and share your experience with the various bioenergy associations or contact the members of the Bundestag or their offices directly.

The KWG law promotes the efficiency technology of cogeneration, the EEWärmeG strengthens the use of renewable heat and the planned EEGasG supports renewable gas ("Green gas") as an energy source. We can take measures from the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) get inspiration and advice from our British partners.

The Bioenergy Blog will report on concrete changes.

6. Trade in biomass will change

Many developments have been initiated in the past year that will change the trade with the various bioenergy sources. Building on this infrastructure, trade will become more international, more sustainable and more quality-oriented.

This is how the Europe's first biomass exchange opened. Overall, Europe is an important engine for the improvement of international biomass trade. This is not surprising when you consider how densely populated the continent is and what potential in international markets

I am therefore particularly pleased that Europe is also the spearhead in the development of sustainability certification for biomass. The commitment to sustainable cultivation, trade and use of the valuable "biomass" good shows that Europe is aware of its great responsibility in implementing its own energy transition.

7. Asia and Brazil bring momentum to the international bioenergy scene

In an interesting article in the Biofuels Digest from January 1, 2012, Jim Lane oracles about the Developments in the biofuels industry in 2012.

In the article, Lane formulates that after a 2-year leadership role in Brazil, in the international interest in forming partnerships, he now sees Asia increasingly coming into the focus of the bioenergy community. The editor of the world's most widely read biofuel blog mentions the following regional priorities:

• Palm oil and palm oil waste in Indonesia and Malaysia
• Cassava in Thailand and Vietnam
• Sugar cane in India
• Wood waste and animal by-products in China
• Algae in "Algstralia" (Australia)

The bio-energy blog BiomassMuse will also take a closer look at Brazil and Asia this year.

8. Algae, algae and again algae

The algae division has been the symbol for the innovative power of bioenergy for many years. Hardly any other bioenergy source promises to make such a large contribution to the development of an energy supply post-oil in the medium term as the generation of energy from microalgae and macroalgae. Bacteria and fungi may have faster growth rates, but are not among the biomass PRODUCERS within the biosphere.

It remains to be seen whether 3rd generation bioenergy (algae) will actually overtake 2nd generation bioenergy (cellulose-ethanol, BtL etc.), as some experts suspect. In any case, it won't happen in 2012.

Gaseous, liquid or solid bioenergy sources from algae are currently still in development and have only very limited access to economical applications (see Algae fuels for civil aviation).

Despite all the euphoria for the expansion of algae energy, careful scientific observation of the effects of this energy source on our planet must accompany its use.

In Germany especially these Companies and institutes in the field of algae energy, as well as the Algae cluster in Berlin-Brandenburg determine the pulse of the industry.

9. Program for the promotion of mini-CHP is resumed

After some back and forth around the support program for mini-CHP plants, it is now to be restarted in 2012. This is great news for the expansion of decentralized bioenergy!

The funding for small cogeneration plants was temporarily suspended in 2010 because the demand was so great that the applications submitted quickly exceeded the available budget. The banking crisis had not allowed an increase in funding and so was the mini-CHP program completely canceled at short notice, Now the mini-CHP subsidy program should come back.

There is also a conceptual redesign of the program criticism, but the resumption is at least a first positive signal that modern efficiency technology has not been forgotten on the political side.

Should the mini-CHP program come into force again from 1.4.2012, it can be a good addition to the new mini-biogas plants. However, it is discussed that only CHP plants up to 20 kW are eligible for funding in the new program, which means that many CHP plants of mini-biogas plants (up to 75 kW) would not be included in the program's funding area.

In such a case, the development of bioenergy can only benefit indirectly through higher decentralized sales. The mini-CHP program can provide a further economic incentive to motivate private end consumers to purchase the biogas or biomethane directly and in this way convert it even more efficiently into electricity and heat on their own.

As a bioenergy enthusiast, however, I would very much welcome an increase in the currently planned total funding of € 20 million and the increase in the power limit to 50 kW.

10. Use of wood-like bioenergy will continue to increase worldwide

Not all bioenergy markets are growing equally. For example, when expanding the following bioenergy sources you will find very different dynamics depending on the location conditions of the consumer country:

• biogas
• Biomethane
• bioethanol
• biodiesel
• wood pellets
• Wood chips

A distinction should be made between the production and consumption of the gaseous, liquid and solid bioenergy. A good example of this is the first one Decrease in biodiesel production in Europe, without which the EU consumption of biodiesel has decreased. Rather, biodiesel imports to Europe have replaced domestic production.

The use of solid biomass has a decisive advantage compared to other bioenergy sources. Heating with wood chips or wood pellets is cheaper than heating with fossil fuel oil. And that applies today "out of the box" without subsidies! Another Oil price rise this economic advantage is likely to increase even more, since almost all bioenergy sources compete with the price for crude oil, which can also be used very flexibly.

Led by the Netherlands, Great Britain, Germany, Belgium and Sweden, European interest in wood-like bioenergy is increasing and at the same time contributing to the increase in wood imports from North America. This trend is likely to continue in 2012.

China, India, Japan and Brazil in particular have jumped on the bandwagon of energy generation from solid biomass. In China, as many as 500-700 new biomass power plants are to be put into operation by 2015, and the generation capacity will increase by as much as 160% compared to 2010.

Bioenergy 2012 - what do we want to achieve?

To research this article, I also used articles in the international blogosphere and specialist press. The content of published annual reviews 2011 and forecasts for 2012 on biogas, biofuels and woody biomass worldwide are an important source of inspiration. I would like to recommend some interesting sources to all bioenergy enthusiasts or bioenergy actors:

What can we achieve within the bioenergy industry? What potential can we unleash and what negative developments do we have to counteract?

I am looking forward to the coming year with exciting developments in the bioenergy sector. Good luck and have fun helping to shape the industry.

What do you expect or want from 2012?