Potential of Underutilized Land for Bioenergy Production

    Pan-European Mapping of Underutilized Land for Bioenergy Production

    Manuela Hirschmugl et al.

    Abandoned and unused land in Europe provide the opportunity of using this land to produce biomass for green chemistry and the bioenergy sector. This will increase the share of renewable energy under the Recast Renewable Energy Directive (RED II). Growing energy crops on land that is currently not in use and that has low levels of biodiversity and carbon storage, is regarded as having a low risk of indirect land use change (ILUC). The study from Hirschmugl M. et al assesses the amount of underutilized land in Europe that is possibility suited for growing bioenergy crops. The areas selected for the research were comprised out of the EU countries plus selected neighbouring countries, de facto almost equaling the entire European continent.

    Two datasets based on a Satelite Remote Sensing technique were combined to assess the change of land usage on a pan-European level: the Landsat 8 (L8) dataset and the Sentinel-2 (S2) data3set of the Copernicus program. The researchers used a stratified approach based on biographical regions of Europe, due to different effects of the climatic situations on the properties of underutilized land.

    The following results were obtained:

    • In total 5.3 million ha of land was identified as underutilized and could possibly be sustaining crop production for bioenergy purposes. This corresponds with 2.3% of the total land of interest (e.g. land excluding land unfit for production of crops).
    • Regarding the different biographical regions, the most underutilized land was found to be in the Mediterranean area (in absolute and relative numbers).
    • On country level the largest amounts of land were found in Greece, North-Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Ukraine, Portugal, Bulgaria, Spain, Italy and Great Britain.
    • Little amounts of available land were registered in the Scandinavian countries, Germany, Austria and the Benelux countries

    The use of Satelite Remote Sensing techniques can be useful in further research due to large continental reach and the high level of detail of the results. The study stresses the further need for research to assess the political and economic viability of utilizing unused land for bioenergy crops. New assessments of underutilized land based on advanced models that incorporate these pollical and economic factors are needed in the future.

    The entire report can be found here.

    • Date 30/03/2021
    • Tags 2021, Availability, Bioenergy, Biomass, Feedstocks, Research