On 4-6 November, the conference Building a sustainable European biofuel industry in Gothenburg became a meeting venue for a number of different stakeholders active in the field of biofuels. The conference was a joint event between Norwegian and British research hubs Bio4Fuels and Supergen Bioenergy and the Swedish collaborative research program Renewable transportation fuels and systems. During two days, 200 participants took part of a collection of presentations that had been put together with the aim of showing research, industry initiatives and policy strategies in the three organizer’s countries. The result showed to be a very informative conference where conditions for development in the biofuel field in Norway, Sweden and the UK contributed to an enhanced understanding for which questions are considered important in the countries, respectively.
— We may share many common interests, but our perspectives and starting points differ a lot, said the conference moderator, Anders Ådahl, Co-Director of Energy Area of Advance at Chalmers University of Technology.
He thinks that the mix of speakers from industry, the public sector, and academia made the conference much more valuable than if there had been only presentations from for example academia.
— The way forward in the field of bioenergy lies very much in understanding different actors’ roles and thinking, says Anders Ådahl. My impression is that today, industry is ahead of policy when it comes to realising ambitions.
Among the conference participants was Annika Åhnberg, Chair of the board for f3 Centre that finances the collaborative research program Renewable transportation fuels and systems together with the Swedish Energy Agency. She described her overall impression of the conference as very positive. It presented insights about how differences between the organizing countries can manifest themselves. Sweden, for example, has a high biomass availability, while the UK does not.
— UK can develop technologies that use waste as a feedstock for fuel production. But what happens if that source is limited, maybe due to a general reduction of the waste flow, or if there is competition from other areas of use? That does not seem sustainable in the long run, Annika Åhnberg says. But what other alternatives do they have?
According to Annika Åhnberg, it is crucial that we keep up the international exchange of knowledge and experiences between countries and regions, and that we acknowledge that the conditions for sustainability differ, also over time.
— We need to refrain from a shallow and negligent definition of the concept of sustainability, and deepen the discussion. I think that this is what the conference has really shown, she says.
Wrapping up the conference, a real-time poll was carried through with the web-based Mentimeter tool. Among other questions, the conference participants were asked about what they consider as the key biofuel research challenges needed to be prioritized to deliver global climate ambitions. The same questions were asked to the directors of the three organisers; Duncan Akporiaye (Bio4Fuels), Patricia Thornley (Supergen Bioenergy) and Ingrid Nohlgren (collaborative research program Renewable transportation fuels and systems). Generally, there was agreement concerning the need for a comprehensive systems approach, but that can not stand in the way for development in specific areas.
— The biggest challenge is then to create awareness about both levels, and the links between them. From that point of view, trans-boundary conferences of this kind are especially well motivated, says Ingrid Nohlgren.
Presentations, photos and videos from the conference will soon be made available.