Even far from the Alps, the questions raised by recharge.green about tradeoffs between ecosystems protection and bioenergy production are hot topics. Last week, IIASA’s Florian Kraxner presented the latest results from work on the recharge.green project at the International Energy Workshop (IEW) in Beijing, one of the leading conferences for the international energy modeling research community.
The IEW normally focuses on worldwide modeling methods and results, from the Integrated Assessment Modeling community. In contrast, the recharge.green focuses on regional and local questions. At IEW, Kraxner focused in on these local and regional questions, presenting two scenarios developed as part of the recharge.green project. The scenarios examine the tradeoffs between managing forests in the Alps for maximum carbon sequestration or managing forests to maximize biomass for energy production. In both scenarios, the researchers show, Alpine forests can be managed sustainably with no forest degradation, deforestation, but no afforestation.
The recharge.green study has also taken the question to a detailed local level, using the Austrian region of Voralberg as a case study. The study showed that excluding certain areas from harvesting for biomass does not lead to major costs in terms of bioenergy production. But the same is not necessarily true in neighboring provinces in Austria or Switzerland, the study shows.
Such local and regional-level studies are extremely important, argues Kraxner, because without them global assessment models remain far too inaccurate to know how much bioenergy can contribute to climate stabilization targets. He says, “To date there are no sophisticated and integrated renewable/bioenergy potentials in the literature which consider the sustainable production as well as the conservation of ecosystem services at high resolution.” Recharge.green is a first step in that direction, says Kraxner.