Biofuels with Indirect Land-Use Change Risk

In two studies for the European Commission, Guidehouse identifies high indirect land-use change biofuels and develops the methodology to certify low indirect land-use change biofuels

Challenge

The European Commission (EC) asked Guidehouse to help identify feedstocks that are at high-risk of causing indirect land-use change (ILUC) on a global scale. In a parallel engagement, Guidehouse is supporting the EC in developing a credible approach to certify individual projects that mitigate these risks, producing low ILUC-risk feedstocks.

ILUC is a phenomenon caused when biomass that is currently used for food or feed crops is used for biofuels. It can displace agricultural land that was used for growing food or animal feed forcing it to be grown elsewhere. This puts pressure on the agricultural system, leading to agricultural land expansion. As the expansion is not directly caused by the specific biofuel project, the concept is referred to as ILUC.

Solution

To determine which feedstocks are high ILUC-risk, the team quantifies agricultural expansion onto land with high-carbon stock. Quantification of agricultural land expansion requires GIS mapping of feedstock expansion into high-carbon stock land, detailed spatial regional mapping in the main areas of feedstock expansion, and an assessment of energy yields and greenhouse gas emissions from the lands. 

The low ILUC-risk study aims to develop and test how biofuels can be produced and certified with a low ILUC risk. The team has developed five pilot projects across different geographical regions (Europe, South East Asia, Latin America) and feedstocks (different vegetable oils and starch crops) to test a low ILUC-risk biofuel certification methodology. The pilot projects aim to produce “additional biomass” compared to a business-as-usual scenario, either through increasing yields on existing plots or by producing biomass on previously unused or abandoned land.

These pilots will test the availability and accessibility of data, challenges, and uncertainties, and ultimately the extent to which low ILUC-risk certification is feasible within the methodology proposed in European legislation.

Impact

The high ILUC-risk mapping will be brought together into an updated global crop expansion map on which updated values for feedstock expansion shares into high carbon stock land for each feedstock are determined, thus identifying which feedstocks are classified as high ILUC-risk.

The low ILUC-risk pilots will result in a methodology that can be used to certify low ILUC-risk biofuel feedstocks as an add-on module to existing EC-recognized voluntary sustainability schemes.

Learn more, visit the project website

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