Biofuels technology development in Southern Africa
The benefits of biofuels depend on the feedstock, conversion pathway and local context. This paper assesses biofuels technology readiness and developments to provide foresight to biofuels development in Southern Africa.
Efficient conversion pathways, coupled with biomass from waste or high-yielding energy crops, will reduce both the costs of biofuels production, and the environmental impacts. Compared to petroleum fuels, the current commercial biofuels (ethanol, biogas and biodiesel) typically offer carbon emission reductions of 30–50% but are marginally more expensive.
The extent of biofuels market penetration will therefore be influenced by mandates (blending targets) and subsidies (green premium). Advanced biofuels promise greater efficiencies and carbon emission reductions at reduced cost but will require further research and development to reach commercialisation. If developed appropriately, biofuels can reduce carbon emissions and improve energy security, while enabling sustainable agriculture and improved natural resources management.