If bioenergy is to have a future in Europe it needs to see a far greater amount of land used to produce bioenergy crops, a new report has found. This, in turn, would mean greater competition with other land uses for the land, a new paper on bioenergy has found.

Demand for bioenergy in Europe has been driven largely by political targets and subsidies, according to a new report by the University of Vienna, but its future lies in doubt due to its need for land.

Bioenergy usage is projected to increase by 44% by 2020, as the amount of biofuel available grows to meet targets. However, this means that the need for land to produce biofuels will also increase – with a need for over 70 million hectares, according to the report.

In 2010 the global footprint related to EU bioenergy demand was equal to the size of Sweden. Policy targets for bioenergy are projected to require and additional area expansion of the size of Poland by 2030. Biomass currently provides 8% of the EU’s final energy consumption and the EU plans to have biofuels account for 20% of energy usage by 2020. However, the report finds that if biomass energy is politically targeted to supply a strategic share of the EU energy mix, the amount of land available to produce biomass must increase dramatically.

However, it says that there are currently no adequate or verifiable sustainability safeguards in place to guarantee the prevention of further ecosystem degradation from EU bioenergy consumption.

The paper was commissioned by Friends of the Earth and was carried out by Vienna University of Economics and Business.