Swedish forest
​Swedish forest. Photo: Maria Grahn

The Swedish forest can contribute to limit climate change

​​“There is quite a hot scientific debate on the climate effect of using forest bioenergy. Methodological and parameter value choices seem to influence the results significantly. We wanted to contribute to this debate with the Swedish experience”, says Olivia Cintas Sanchez. 
On October 30 she defended her doctoral thesis: "Land use and climate effect of bioenergy", at Chalmers University of Technology. 
From Olula del Río in southern Spain to Gothenburg. After her years as a PhD Student at the division of Energy Technology, Olivia is now leaving Chalmers but not Gothenburg. Her next work place will be RISE Research Institutes of Sweden AB.

Since bioenergy and land use is a topic in focus all over the world, Energy´s newsletter wanted to ask Olivia Cintas Sanchez some questions.

Olivia Cintas SanchezIn your opinion, what role will bioenergy play in the future?
“When evaluating alternative energy options it is important to recognize that these can both compete with, and be complementary to, each other. In an energy system with large amounts of variable renewable power such as wind and solar cells panels PV, dispatchable biomass power can be a valuable complement to balance power. In addition, electrification of transport systems is considered an important step toward more climate friendly transport. But it takes time to transform the current transport systems, and biofuels can make an important contribution to achieving rapid and deep reduction in fossil fuel use in the transport sector. In the longer-term, biofuels may primarily be used in applications where substitution away from carbon-based fuels is difficult, such as aviation”, says Oliva Cintas Sanchez. 

What is the main result of your research? 
This thesis shows that bioenergy and bio-based products can contribute positively to
climate change mitigation by providing CO2 savings.” 

Oliva Cintas Sanchez also hope that her work will clarify how different methodological choices can influences conclusions about the carbon effect associated with forest bioenergy. 

“Moreover, the thesis shows the relevance of considering supply-side responses to increasing demand for bioenergy and other wood products, e.g., changed silviculture operations and crop choices in agriculture. Different types of management affect ecosystem services differently”.
“The work shows the relevance of land management. The findings suggest that shifting attention from an assessment of flows of individual products to an assessment of maintaining carbon stock in the landscape to deliver ecosystem services—including forest and agricultural products—could capture potential impacts associated with bioenergy while also being simpler to perform”, says Olivia Cintas Sanchez.

What is your dream scenario for the Swedish bioenergy system?
“It´s a scenario with higher prices for fossil fuels that could facilitate investments on both, more productive forest managements and bioenergy technology development”.
Which tools did you use when you did your thesis? 
“I used forest carbon balance analyses to estimate the climate effect of using Swedish forest bioenergy. Moreover, I also used geographical information system, GIS, analyses to assess and analyze the availability and cost of forest and agricultural residues in relation to localized biomass demand in the European Union. GIS analyses allow to account for land use and site specific environmental and social constraints”, says Olivia Cintas Sanchez.

What did you find most interesting?
“Contributing to this scientific debate with conceptual studies but also to get into more real studies to understand how the Sweden forest can contribute to achieve national climate targets. From a methodological perspective, I really enjoyed working with GIS analysis”.
Who is the target group for your work?
“It´s mainly other academic colleagues working with similar questions so they can understand the implications associated with methodological choices. The thesis also contributed with data production that could be used as input to the scientific debate about the climate impact of forest-based bioenergy”, says Olivia Cintas Sanchez.

“Everything that is fossil-based today can be made from wood in the future”, claimed Mikael Damberg, Minister for Enterprise and Innovation, some years ago. Now Sweden and the rest of the Nordic countries are investing in bio-based economies. 

Do you agree with Mikael Damberg or are there any downsides with bioenergy?
“Yes, in principle almost everything can be made of wood in the future. But wood is a limited resource and it is associated with land use and land use change issues, so it needs to be used in a smart way and may necessitate prioritizing its use for specific applications”, she concludes.

By: Ann-Christine Nordin

Oliva Cintas Sanchez is from the village Olula del Río, in Almeria, Spain.
Carbon balances of Swedish forest bioenergy systems – and – Geospatial biomass supply-and-demand matching for Europe.
In order to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, greenhouse gas emissions have to be drastically reduced. Bioenergy can play a role in climate change mitigation by substituting for energy from fossil fuels; however, biomass is a limited resource associated with emissions from land use and land-use change. Climate benefits of using biomass for energy have been called into question, with studies reaching conflicting conclusions. These conflicts can in part be explained by differences in methodological approaches and critical parameters, as well as by differences among the assessed bioenergy systems, e.g., the geographic location and associated land use.
This thesis combines five papers to provide a better understanding of the interactions between biomass supply and demand and the implications for land use and for climate change and other environmental impacts at the Department of Space, Earth and Environment. 

Page manager Published: Fri 18 Jan 2019.