Straw for renewable energy production: impact of market dynamics
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In order for the EU to reach its renewable energy and GHG emission reduction targets, member states need to find alternative source for energy supply to fossil fuels. One potential energy source that could help in this endeavour whose potential has been overlooked so far comes in the form of cereal straw. While large potentials are theoretically available, straw however still has other uses in the agricultural sector most notably for animal husbandry and for humus supply. Targeting straw for renewable energy production could therefore impact these existing uses. Furthermore, how much of the theoretically estimated straw potential could actually be mobilized from the backdrop of competing uses, different farming practices and market interactions and what the consequences of an increase from the energy sector would be is not entirely clear. The objective of this research was therefore to investigate how the different elements influence each other and explore the dynamic impacts if straw is used for renewable energy production. To investigate the dynamic impacts of increase in straw demand from the energy sector an agent-based model was developed that assumes the operation of a straw based bioethanol plant in a specific region in Germany, which has been identified with potentially large surplus straw potentials. The model results show that market dynamics and farmer straw use behaviour can greatly influence the yearly straw availability for energetic purposes and could impact the overall feasibility and sustainability of mobilising straw for renewable energy production especially in cases where straw demand exceeds regional supply.