Research Handbooks on Impact Assessment series
Edited by Angus Morrison-Saunders, Jenny Pope and Alan Bond
Chapter 7: Sustainability assessment and energy future: opportunities for Brazilian sugarcane ethanol planning
Energy is one of the most critical aspects of any blueprint to a more sustainable future, and the current world energy matrix, largely based on fossil fuels, requires a major shift to cleaner and renewable sources (IPCC, 2013; UN, 2014). The present share of fossil fuel in the global energy mix is around 82 percent, essentially unchanged from the situation 25 years ago (IEA, 2013). The necessary transition to a low carbon economy is completely different from previous energy transitions in human history. Renewable energies are valued for their potential environmental benefits, while the main advantages of previous transitions were related to economic factors such as increased productivity and cost reduction or improvements in service quality, such as observed in the transition from animal to steam or from steam to electricity in power services (Fouquet and Pearson, 2012; Grubler, 2012; Pollitt, 2012). Nevertheless, a number of studies indicate that a meaningful increase of renewables in the world energy matrix remains a difficult challenge (IEA, 2003; IEA Bioenergy, 2009). In contrast, renewable energy in Brazil represents around 40 percent of the national matrix, a remarkable level in comparison with the world average of 13 percent (EPE, 2013a). Hydropower and sugarcane biomass, including ethanol fuel, are mainly responsible for the high share of renewables in the country.
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