Bioenergies impact on Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services: A Comparison of Biomass and Coal Fuels

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Bioenergy is one energy technology that is being used to decarbonize energy provision in order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, all energy value chains use natural capital (NC) other than the atmosphere and impact ecosystem services (ES) other than climate regulation in different ways. In this chapter the consumption of all natural capital categories by various energy systems is discussed along with their impact on the ecosystem services provision. Metrics that can be used to quantify the positive and negative contribution of energy systems to each ecosystem service are investigated, and methods of comparing the overall impact of each energy system are proposed. These impacts and comparison metrics are discussed using the example of coal- and biomass-fired thermal electricity generation. Coal is very detrimental to ES unless the GHG can be stored by carbon capture and storage (CCS) and clean coal technology is used. Biomass firing, on the other hand, can have a positive impact on ES as long as the feedstock is grown on land that does not compete with other land use vital to ES. However, the total contribution that bioenergy can make to a low-carbon economy is constrained by the land available.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBioenergy and Land Use Change
EditorsZhangcai Qin, Umakant Mishra, Astley Hastings
Place of PublicationHoboken, NJ, USA
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons Inc.
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781119297376
ISBN (Print)9781119297345
Publication statusPublished - 29 Dec 2017

Publication series

NameGeophysical Monograph Series
PublisherAGU Publications
ISSN (Electronic)0065-8448


  • bioenergy value chain
  • biomass production
  • coal mining
  • coal-fueled power stations
  • economic cost-benefit analysis
  • ecosystem services
  • energy provision
  • energy sector
  • land-use change
  • natural capital


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