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Electricity from energy crops in different settings—a country comparison between Nicaragua, Ireland and the Netherlands

Biomass and Bioenergy
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0961-9534(01)00063-0
  • Energy Crops
  • Ireland
  • Nicaragua
  • The Netherlands
  • Electricity
  • Co2
  • Macro-Economic Impacts
  • Environmental Impacts
  • Willow
  • Eucalyptus
  • Ecology
  • Economics
  • Geography


Abstract Costs, environmental and macro-economic impacts of the use of energy crops may vary from country to country. To get insight into the causes of these differences, this study compared the impacts of energy crop based electricity generation in three countries and tried to explain the differences from country specific characteristics. We looked at three countries with a significantly different country profile: Ireland, Nicaragua and the Netherlands. Although the cost of producing energy crops in Nicaragua (1.8 / GJ) is much lower than in the Netherlands (5.4– 14 / GJ ) and Ireland (4.7– 8.2 / GJ ), the resulting cost of electricity (0.072 / kW h ) is relatively close to that in the other two countries. This is mainly caused by the high internal rate of return required in Nicaragua. Electricity generation in the Netherlands from eucalyptus imported from Nicaragua would be just above the low cost estimate of energy crops cultivated in the Netherlands. Beside importing untreated wood, international trade could also be based on densified or liquified biomass, biomass-derived electricity or “import” of emission reduction credits. In the Netherlands, biomass energy can benefit significantly from the exemption of the regulating energy tax and other stimulative measures for renewables. The cost per tonne of CO 2-eq . avoided is the lowest in Nicaragua (14 / tonne CO 2-eq .). In Ireland this ranges between 22 and 53 / tonne CO 2-eq . In the Netherlands the two cheapest options cost 56 and 86 / tonne CO 2-eq ., but the whole set of stimulative measures values 93 / tonne CO 2-eq . Because of the low conversion efficiency, in Nicaragua only half the amount of CO 2 emission reduction could be obtained per ha of land as compared to the other two countries. The macro-economic advantages of energy crops are the largest in Nicaragua. This impact is also likely to be the most relevant in this country. Overall, it is concluded that the country context can have large impacts on the performance of systems that produce electricity out of energy crops, although these impacts are partly counteractive in the countries under consideration. It is questioned in this paper whether it is appropriate that import of biomass is considered as “domestic measure” in the framework of the Kyoto protocol.

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