EBRD and partners explore next-generation biofuels

By Olga Rosca

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Next-generation biofuels produced from waste and agricultural residues can help save energy and improve the sustainability of companies operating in the agribusiness sector. The EBRD region offers huge opportunities due to the vast amount of agricultural residues and biomass resources still unused, which can help diversify and boost businesses for local companies without impeding overall food security in the region.

“For the EBRD it is very interesting to explore opportunities within new sustainable energy and next-generation biofuels production and to support early movers in this field,” says Terry McCallion, EBRD Director for Energy Efficiency and Climate Change.

The EBRD, together with agricultural companies, industry experts and experienced investors today held a seminar to explore innovative ways to reuse agriculture waste to produce valuable by-products such as biofuels. “The forum offered a great setting for developing ideas, concepts, contacts and opportunities,” said Adrian Robinson from the Bulgarian company Agria Group Holding AD.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance shared their views on current developments in the field and a renowned technology provider, Beta Renewables, offered insights on their biofuel technology using cellulosic feedstock.

Food price rises and recent volatility experienced in food markets clearly show the increased linkages between food production systems and energy markets (through inputs such as fertilizers and biofuels). Attention has thus turned towards new biofuel technologies which do not compete with food crops and agriculture land use and can deliver energy resources in a more environmentally sustainable manner.

Gilles Mettetal, the Director of EBRD’s agribusiness team said: “Turning waste like straw or manure into biofuels or biogas can help agribusiness companies become less dependent on expensive external energy sources and as a result make them more sustainable and competitive. For many businesses this approach would also offer a practical solution on ‘what to do with the waste’”. In 2012, the EBRD invested in total close to €900 million in agribusiness companies, both in debt and equity.

The EBRD mainstreams energy efficiency improvements in all of its investments and addresses energy efficiency and energy security through its Sustainable Energy Initiative. Launched in 2006, it aims to scale up sustainable energy investments in the EBRD region of operations, improving the business environment for sustainable investments and removing key barriers to market development.

To date, the Bank’s investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy have exceeded €11 billion, out of which €400 million is in the agribusiness sector. This allows companies to save 1,800 GWh/year and cut CO2 emissions by 0.9 million tonnes per year.

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