Canadian Forest Service Publications

Potential and impacts of renewable energy production from agricultural biomass in Canada. 2014. Liu, T.; McConkey, B.; Hufman, T.; Smith, S.; MacGregor, B.; Yemshanov, D.; Kulshreshtha, S. Applied Energy 130:222-229.

Year: 2014

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 35563

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Mark record


Agriculture has the potential to supply considerable amounts of biomass for renewable energy production from dedicated energy crops as well as from crop residues of existing production. Bioenergy production can contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by using ethanol and biodiesel to displace petroleum-based fuels and through direct burning of biomass to offset coal use for generating electricity. We used the Canadian Economic and Emissions Model for Agriculture to estimate the potential for renewable energy production from biomass, the impacts on agricultural production, land use change and greenhouse gas emissions. We explored two scenarios: the first considers a combination of market incentives and policy mandates (crude oil price of $120 bbl−1; carbon offset price of $50 Mg−1 CO2 equivalent and policy targets of a substitution of 20% of gasoline by biomass-based ethanol; 8% of petroleum diesel by biodiesel and 20% of coal-based electricity by direct biomass combustion), and a second scenario considers only carbon offset market incentives priced at $50 Mg−1 CO2 equivalent. The results show that under the combination of market incentives and policy mandates scenario, the production of biomass-based ethanol and electricity increases considerably and could potentially cause substantial changes in land use practices. Overall, agriculture has considerable potential to generate biomass for energy and a significant potential for GHG emission reductions, however the proportional mix of policy and market incentives would have a large impact on the type of bioenergy produced.

Plain Language Summary

We looked at the potential of agriculture to supply increased amounts of bioenergy in the near future. We used models to estimate the amount that could be produced and the resulting impacts on agricultural production, land use change and greenhouse gas emissions. We compared two scenarios: one looked at only market-driven carbon offset incentives and the second included targeted reductions (substitution of 20% of gasoline, 8% of petroleum diesel and 20% of coal-based electricity with biomass-based alternatives). With targeted reduction, a moderate amount of land would have to be converted to agricultural production, including about 90,000 ha of forests. We conclude that the Canadian agricultural sector has good potential to produce energy from biomass and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production. The use of biomass for electricity generation has greater greenhouse gas offset potential than the production of biomass for vehicle fuel.