Strategic Analysis

You are here

Strategic Analysis helps determine the overall goals and priorities for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and covers issues that cut across research and development (R&D) program areas. System-level analyses inform strategic direction and planning efforts; they also help BETO focus its technology development priorities and identify key drivers and hurdles for industry growth. Technology-specific analyses explore sensitivities, identify areas where investment may lead to the greatest impacts, and outline R&D needed to further develop emerging ideas.

The Strategic Analysis program area: 

  1. Provides the analytical basis for planning and assessing progress; 
  2. Defines performance targets and strategy for validating biomass technologies and systems; and 
  3. Conducts integrated technology assessments and environmental analyses relevant to bioenergy. 

Coordinated multi-laboratory efforts and continued partnerships with the biomass industry and scientific community help ensure that BETO’s analysis results are peer-reviewed, transferable, and comparable.

a graph of showing cost of biofules
Analysis identified top strategies to reduce the cost of biofuels.

Current BETO strategic analysis activities fall into three broad activities: technology and resource assessmentbioenergy impact analysis, and model development and data compilation.

TECHNOLOGY AND RESOURCE ASSESSMENTs

Technology and resource assessments help BETO focus its technology development priorities for the near-, mid-, and long-term by identifying opportunities to achieve the greatest potential benefits.

Techno-Economic Analyses (TEA): Assess the economic viability of example process configurations (i.e. technology pathways), identify potential cost reductions, inform R&D needs, assess progress, and provide input into portfolio development and technology verification. Ongoing analysis efforts apply learning rates from relevant, more-established industries to estimate the range of possible cost reductions as conversion technologies are commercialized and replicated. The BETO Biofuels TEA Database can be found on the Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework (KDF).

Design Cases: Outline a target case and provide preliminary identification of data gaps and R&D needs. BETO uses design cases as a basis for setting technical targets and cost of production goals. Recent, published design cases can be found in the Publications section below.

State of Technology Assessments (SOT): Serve as a periodic (usually annual) assessment of the status of technology development for a biomass to biofuels or bioproducts pathway. A SOT assesses progress within and across relevant technology areas based on actual experimental results relative to technical targets and cost goals from design cases and includes technical, economic, and environmental criteria as available.  Annual SOT numbers are published in the BETO Multi-Year Plan or as stand-alone documents. Recent, published SOTs can be found in the Publications section below.

Resource Assessments: Identify the geographic location, price, and environmental impact of accessing existing and potential feedstock resources. The 2016 Billion-Ton Report expanded upon previous studies to estimate the potential economic availability of biomass resources as delivered to biorefineries. Strategic Analysis activities utilize these data to understand price effects of competition from various biomass-utilization technologies (e.g., biofuel versus biopower), as well as to assess cross-technology impacts of feedstock cost, quantity, and quality. Resource assessments can be found in the Publications section below.

Life Cycle Analyses (LCA): Assess the environmental and energy effects of new bioenergy and bioproduct technologies holistically along their supply chain, identify the potential for improving the environmental and energy performance of new processes and technologies, and provide input into portfolio development and technology verification.

To support the evaluation of BETO research and development priorities, environmental modeling is used to conduct full life cycle assessments, or supply chain sustainability analyses (SCSA), on representative biofuel technology pathways. SCSAs are used to monitor progress against BETO goals of developing pathways with increased net energy efficiency and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions as well as to understand associated pathway water consumption. Pathway-specific SCSA results do not address all aspects of environmental sustainability, but are critical to understanding the key drivers of energy use, GHG emissions, and water consumption, and how these attributes change in relation to process design changes and cost improvements. The latest SCSAs can be found in the Publications section below.

-Return to Top-

BIOENERGY IMPACT ANALYSES

Understanding bioenergy industry and market dynamics helps BETO focus its R&D priorities. Two methods for understanding these dynamics are through scenario analysis and benefits and risk analysis.

Scenario Analysis: Understanding the impacts of changes and development of various elements of the biomass-to-bioenergy supply chain is key to informing technology portfolio planning and monitoring progress toward national goals. To help understand which supply chain modifications have the greatest potential to accelerate production of biofuels, BETO has supported development of the Biomass Scenario Model (BSM) at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The BSM is a systems-dynamics model for conducting biofuels policy analysis through investigation of the systemic effects, linkages, and dependencies across the biomass-to-biofuels supply chain.

Benefits and Risk Analysis: Benefits analysis helps BETO quantify and communicate the potential benefits of growing the bioeconomy. The scenarios developed and the quantified costs and benefits are used to evaluate the most viable biomass utilization technologies and routes. Uncertainty and risk analyses help BETO quantify the impact of investments on technology risk over time.

-Return to Top-

MODEL DEVELOPMENT AND DATA COMPILATION

BETO supports the development of new analytical tools and methods, and guides the selection of assumptions and methodologies to be used for all analyses to ensure consistency, transparency, and comparability of results.

Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework (KDF): The Bioenergy KDF is a web-based data repository, visualization geospatial analysis tool, and library that allows researchers, policymakers, and investors to engage with and explore the latest bioenergy research.

a screenshot of the bioenergy Knowledge discovery framework banner image

The Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC): The AFDC provides data, documents, online tools, and other resources to enable implementation of alternative fuel and advanced vehicle technologies at the local and regional levels.

Biofuels Atlas: The Biofuels Atlas is a first-pass visualization tool—created using the Google Maps application program interface—which allows users to explore the potential of biomass-to-biofuels conversions at various locations and scales. It includes the ability to download state-level data and analyze data for specific user-selected geographic areas.

a screenshot of a US map, showing the potential of biomass-to-biofuels conversions at various locations and scales

The Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) Model: GREET is an LCA tool that simulates the energy use and emissions output of various vehicle and fuel combinations.

-Return to Top-

PUBLICATIONS

Design ReportsState of Technology Assessments

Resource Assessments and Industry Status Reports

Supply Chain Sustainability Assessments

OTHER RESOURCES/QUICK LINKS