The future of residue-based bioenergy for industrial use in Sub-Saharan Africa

Mirjam Röder*, Katie Chong, Patricia Thornley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Energy outlooks for Africa feature increased use of fossil fuels. However, they widely ignore that a transition from traditional to modern bioenergy can support the increasing commercial energy demand and offer a high level of flexibility and dispatchability. We use energy statistics, resource assessments and demand analysis to show how switching traditional biomass use to more sustainable technologies could practically eliminate unsustainable fuelwood use. Furthermore, mobilising agricultural and forestry residue for commercial use could grow a sustainable biomass industry and offset Africa's projected expansion of fossil fuels. The assessment focuses on feedstocks and potential energy conversion options for selected and most promising bioenergy pathways in Sub-Saharan Africa's growing and economically relevant industries: cement, agricultural processing, livestock, and horticulture. Examples of specific applications are given to support the high-level resource assessment and demand balances in these sectors. Our results indicate that 3317 PJ bioenergy could be utilised in Sub-Saharan Africa. Even with the calculated gap between biomass availability and biomass demand of 5559 PJ in future energy scenarios, bioenergy can contribute to sustainable energy supply and access in SSA. The sustainability mapping highlighted that bioenergy could deliver integral social and economic impacts because of the close integration with agriculture as the main livelihood supporting sector in SSA. Sustainability frameworks and governance structures must consider bioenergy beyond its cost and clean energy potential to maximise positive trade-offs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106385
JournalBiomass and Bioenergy
Early online date21 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY licence 4.0

Funding Information:
This research has been conducted as part of the ‘Bioenergy for Sustainable Local Energy Services and Energy Access in Africa - Phase 2’ (BSEAA2) project and was funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) as part of the Transforming Energy Access programme.


  • Bioenergy
  • Biomass resources
  • Energy demand
  • Energy transition
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Sustainability


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