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A basic design for a multicriteria approach to efficient bioenergy production at regional level

Abstract

Background

In Germany, government policies supporting the growth of renewable energies lead to a rapid increase in energy crop cultivation. This increase is linked to possible conflicts between different sustainability goals which so far have been rarely considered in the planning procedure.

Methods

This article looks at different approaches of assessment and planning methods on a region-specific level. It describes the methodology of the project Efficient Bio-Energy in the Perspective of Nature Conservation - Assessment and Recommendations to Protect Biodiversity and Climate which aims to establish the basis for an integrated sustainability assessment of energy crop cultivation for decentralized energy production in Germany and has been conducted by the author. The method takes into account the three main requirements of agricultural profitability, greenhouse gases (GHG) efficiency, and environmental sustainability of energy crop cultivation for decentralized energy production and has been applied for two sample regions.

Results

Using ArcGIS, the suitability of energy crops can be displayed, and regional aspects can be considered by overlaying and intersecting the individual output of all three requirements. This allows the definition of ‘no-go’ areas as well as the overall estimation of the maximum sustainable production capacity for each energy crop or energy path in a specific region. It enables an estimation of the profitability and GHG efficiency of energy crop cultivation paths at regional or communal level under consideration of different indicators for environmental sustainability.

Conclusions

The article closes with a discussion of the methodological challenges of this integrative method. The conclusion gives an outlook in which planning and policy processes could be beneficial to apply such an integrative method in order to assess the suitability of certain landscape areas for energy production paths.