Climate Change & Energy

Our Work

Energy from biomass offers a potentially significant source of renewable energy for the future – it is also expected to play a significant role in achieving the EU targets on renewable energy to 2020. The bioenergy sector has been expanding rapidly in recent times – but not always in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Delivering sustainable bioenergy requires consideration of many factors – farming and forestry, broader environmental protection needs, future scenarios for energy production and an understanding of EU law making. IEEP’s multidisciplinary team spans all of these areas. We are increasingly offering advice in this field to EU and Member State law-makers, academics, regulatory authorities, industry and NGOs.


Under the project Biomass Futures we explore how sustainable bioenergy solutions can best be supported by policy in Europe. Within the study we are looking at demand and supply dynamics from a stakeholder perspective. We are also producing specific briefings to explain important issues.

With support from the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), IEEP took part in an initiative led by Imperial College London to take a ‘whole systems approach’ to analysing bioenergy demand and supply in the UK. We held focus groups with farmers to examine the problems and barriers to adoption of bioenergy crops, developing ways to communicate sustainability issues to stakeholders and providing policy support to the wider group of academics involved.

Biofuel sustainability

Building on IEEP’s experience in low carbon fuels and vehicles, IEEP has developed extensive specialist knowledge on the definition and implementation of sustainability criteria for biofuels. IEEP has provided advice in a variety of high-level forums supporting work by the UK Low Carbon Vehicles Partnership, NGO Agro fuel forum, the EU Cars 21 Expert Group and the European Commission’s future of fuels expert group.

Protecting highly biodiverse habitats – IEEP has been working with WWF and Defra to help the European Commission improve the definition of requirements for the protection of highly biodiverse grasslands under the Renewable Energy Directive. The Directive requires these valuable habitats, which are at risk from the expansion of biofuel production, to be protected; however, there remains uncertainty over the best mechanisms to ensure their conservation.

Delivering more sustainable biofuel solutions – IEEP has on a number of occasions, brought together stakeholders to discuss how sustainable biofuels might be delivered. We have held workshops to examine opportunities for innovation in the biofuels sector. We have led work on potential environmental and rural impacts of biofuel production in the UK. We co-ordinated a transatlantic exchange on these issues under the T-PAGE project. More recently, we organised a dialogue around the delivery of the sustainability criteria set out in the Renewable Energy Directive.

Reviewing alternative policy solutions – As part of our recent work on identifying and assessing environmentally harmful subsidies, we assessed the case of excise duty reductions for biofuels. For more information on this project, please see the page on our Environmental Economics work.

Land use issues

Land use change and land management are critical factors in determining the environmental impact of bioenergy. IEEP’s experts on agriculture, land management, biodiversity, water, soils and energy are well placed to assess the possible implications of land use change in Europe and globally, the role of bioenergy, and alternative management strategies to ensure potential environment positives are maximised.

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