If properly planned and managed, biofuels can contribute to a number of policy objectives which support the development of the green economy, including:
• Diversity and security of energy supplies.
• Many nations have the ability to produce their own biofuels from agriculture, forestry and urban wastes. Produced locally, bioenergy can reduce the need for imported fossil fuels – often a serious drain on a developing country’s finances. By diversifying energy sources, biofuels can also increase a country or region’s energy security.
• Rural development. With 75 percent of the world’s poor depending on agriculture for their livelihoods, producing biofuels locally can harness the growth of the agricultural sector for broader rural development.
• Because agriculture is labour-intensive, job opportunities can be found throughout the biofuel value chain, particularly where conversion from feedstock to biofuel occurs close to where the feedstock is produced. The additional income from new jobs is likely to have a multiplier effect when spent locally, which can further encourage development. Higher quality energy from biofuels can reduce the time needed to collect water and firewood, which means that many women and children have more time for study and other productive tasks.
• Job growth and creation is a primer for the green economy where each renewable energy technology needs different labour and skills. Jobs
in the bioenergy sector are projected to make the greatest contribution to employment compared to all the other renewable energy sectors. However, the factors that increase or decrease this potential include the level of mechanisation, agricultural business models, and available human capacity.
• Energy Access Currently more than 1.5 billion people have no access to electricity and up to 1 billion more have access only to unreliable power supply. And according to estimates by the IEA, 2.5 to 3 billion people rely on biomass and transitional fuels for cooking and heating. Biofuels can help provide access to energy for energy-deprived and off-grid communities, thereby contributing to the goal of universal access to modern energy services by 2030 and spurring greater economic development.
• Health benefits When biofuels replace the traditional inefficient combustion of biomass, indoor pollution is reduced along with subsequent health impacts.
• Reduced greenhouse gas emissions Biofuels that replace fossil fuels or traditional use of biomass for energy can reduce GHG emissions. However, the potential to live up to this promise depends on the GHG balance during production and conversion of biofuels. For example, in many developed countries liquid biofuels for transport have been identified as one of several measures to achieve emission-reduction targets under climate change commitments.
Employment in the renewable energy sector, 2006 Selected countries*
Thousands of people 900
800 700 600 Germany 500 400 300 200 100 0
Source: UNEP, Green jobs, toward decent work in a sustainable low-carbon world, 2008. Note: *Countries for which information is available.