Evaluation of the Sustainable Bioenergy Strategic Priority

Table of Contents

List of Acronyms

AAFC Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
ADM Assistant Deputy Minister
AECL Atomic Energy of Canada Limited
APEC Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation
BEST Bio-Based Energy Systems and Technology
BIMAT Biomass Inventory Mapping and Analysis Tool
CAC Criteria Air Contaminants
CBIN Canadian Biomass Innovation Network
CCTII Climate Change Technology and Innovation Initiative
CEF Clean Energy Fund
CFS Canadian Forest Service
DFO Fisheries and Oceans Canada
DG Director General
EAC External Advisory Committee
EAP External Advisory Panel
EBP Employee Benefit Plan
EC Environment Canada
ecoETI ecoENERGY Technology Initiative
FTE Full-time equivalent
G&C Grants and contributions
GHG Greenhouse gas
HC Health Canada
IC Industry Canada
ICBE Interdepartmental Committee on the Bioeconomy
IEA International Energy Agency
IMO Immediate outcome
INO Intermediate outcome
MOU Memorandum of Understanding
NAEWG North America Energy Working Group
NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NGO Non-governmental organization
NRC National Research Council Canada
NRCan Natural Resources Canada
NSERC National Sciences and Engineering Research Council
O&M Operations and maintenance
OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
OERD Office of Energy Research and Development
PA Program Activity
PAA Program Activity Architecture
PERD Program of Energy Research and Development
R&D Research and development
RD&D Research, development and demonstration
RFS Renewable Fuel Strategy
S&T Science and Technology
SBDA Science-based departments and agencies
SED Strategic Evaluation Division
SPP Security and Prosperity Partnership Initiative
T&I Initiative Technology and Innovation Initiative
TBS Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
TEAM Technology Early Action Measures
USDA United States Department of Agriculture

Definitions

Biomass
“Biological/organic matter including micro-organisms, forest-agricultural-marine plants, forestry-agricultural residues and organic wastes of all types”
Bioenergy
“Energy derived from biomass, generally in the form of heat and/or power (electricity)
Bioproducts
“Value-added commodities made by industrial transformation of biomass into: solid-liquid-gaseous fuels, organic chemicals, resins, solvents, bio-polymers-plastics, natural fibres and composite materials, etc. (Note: traditional agriculture and forest products, such as food, animal feed, lumber and paper, are not included in the definition of bioproducts)”
Biofuels
“A subset of bioproducts; solid, liquid or gaseous fuels that are derived from biomass”
Bioprocess
“A process that involves the biological or biochemical conversion of a feedstock into intermediate or final products; this includes the use of biocatalysts”
Co-products
Other products produced from “biomass conversion technologies, thereby improving the economics of ‘bio’ ethanol, diesel, hydrogen production”; these could include, for example, “pesticides for horticulture crops, hydrogen, lubricants, gums, resins, low temperature fluids, etc.”

Source: Wellisch, M. (2007, November). Action Plan (2004-2008). Canadian Biomass Innovation Network (CBIN) Research & Development Program; pp. 6, 21, 54.

Executive Summary

Introduction

This is an evaluation of Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) Energy Sector Sustainable Bioenergy Strategic Priority. The evaluation is a requirement under the Strategic Evaluation Division’s (SED) 2011–12 workplan. The evaluation covers program activities from 2006–07 to 2010–11.

The goals of the Sustainable Bioenergy Strategic Priority are to: reduce fossil fuel energy consumption; directly or indirectly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) and criteria air contaminant (CAC) emissions; diversify the energy supply; and seed the development of Canada’s bio-based economy by advancing the development of bioenergy, biofuels and bioproducts by substituting for petroleum products and increasing energy efficiency.

The Sustainable Bioenergy Sub-sub Activity is one of six strategic priority areas for NRCan’s Clean Energy Science and Technology (S&T) Sub-Activity. The Sub-sub Activity (hereafter referred to as ‘Strategic Priority’) consists of one program – Bio-Based Energy Systems and Technology (BEST) – and four subprograms involving research and development (R&D) projects.

The Strategic Priority distributed a total of $33.4 million in federal program funds over the five-year evaluation period. It also leveraged another $23.2 million in federal funds (either as cash or in-kind). These funds, along with the non-federal partner contributions of $74.0 million (cash and in-kind funding), resulted in a total of $130.6 million distributed to R&D projects.

The four subprograms and their objectives are summarized below. Although included in the evaluation, Subprograms 3 and 4 were cancelled as of April, 2010.

Subprogram 1 – Sustainable Feedstock. The objective of this subprogram is for improved economic availability of sustainable biomass supply from Canada’s forestry and agricultural sector, as well as from other organic residues such as municipal solid waste and algae. Sustainable Feedstock R&D considers feedstocks production and logistics as it relates to energy and generates information that is vital for the planning, and costing of bioenergy, bioproducts operations ($9.9 million; 30 percent of total funding).

Subprogram 2 – Biomass Conversion. This subprogram supports R&D that advances the development of thermochemical, biochemical, and physical-chemical systems and technologies that can be used to convert sustainably available biomass feedstocks into bioenergy, biofuels, and industrial bioproducts. R&D conducted within this subprogram strives for new or improved cost-effective technologies for biomass conversion and focuses on R&D for reductions in fossil fuel energy intensity; development of viable conversion processes; and improvements in the efficiency, economic viability, and commercial adoption of these processes ($18.0 million; 54 percent of total funding).

Subprogram 3 – Biorefineries and Bioplexes: Subprogram 3 related to identifying and developing promising biorefinery systems that integrate the production and conversion of biomass into bioenergy, biofuels, and industrial bioproducts. The focus of this subprogram was on S&T related to the entire value chain from a given feedstock to the final products and looked at processes and systems that could produce bioenergy, biofuels and bioproducts. ($3.0 million; 9 percent of total funding).

Subprogram 4 – Governance, Sustainability and Performance Measurement: Work conducted under this subprogram assisted in evaluating bioproducts and bioprocesses for sustainability, performance, utility, and efficacy. This included development of baseline environmental data and assessment tools. This information is shared with Canadian stakeholders to assist in comparing it to conventional products and processes and in making informed decisions regarding investments in these products/processes ($2.3 million; 7 percent of total funding).

Context

Development of sustainable bioenergy is expected to provide Canadians with both environmental and economic benefits. Reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are expected to occur through replacement of fossil fuels with bioenergy and biofuels, reduced energy consumption by adoption of improved biotechnologies, and biogas generation from methane-producing wastes, such as livestock manure and municipal solid wastes. Economic benefits will arise through the creation of new industries and value-added products and that will provide new markets for agricultural commodities and contribute to employment and rural development.

Canada has the potential to take advantage of bioenergy opportunities, with a large and under-utilized land base containing a high volume of forestry bioresources, as well as arable land for cultivating bioresource materials. However, Canada’s private sector consists of growing, but primarily small companies that do not have the capacity for investing in the required R&D. Federal government investments assist with R&D and technology development so Canadian companies can take advantage of the opportunities brought about by the development of a bioeconomy.

Evaluation Issues and Methodology

The evaluation was conducted in 2011 and early 2012 and included a document review, literature review, key informant interviews (n=38), a survey of project leaders, review of project annual reporting data, and case studies (n=6). Case studies of specific funded projects involved interviews with project leaders and one or two of their partners and a review of documents.

The evaluation encountered challenges in the survey process. The original intent was to survey both project leaders and project partners, with partners identified through the project leader survey. However, despite best efforts by SED and the Office of Energy Research and Development (OERD) to encourage responses, the project leader survey garnered a low response rate (14 useable responses out of a possible 41 project leaders). Energy Sector management believed this to be, in part, a result of a number of the surveyed project leaders having not been involved with OERD programs for a number of years. The project partner survey, therefore, was not possible. Those non-federal partners identified by the project leaders that did respond were asked to participate in a short telephone interview in order to obtain their input.

Relevance

Continued Need for the Sustainable Bioenergy Sub-sub Activity and its Programs

Canada has the opportunity to be a leader in the bioeconomy given its abundant potential biomass resources. Development of the bioenergy industry can assist Canada in meeting GHG and criteria air contaminants (CAC) emissions while creating employment and other economic opportunities, including diversification of traditional areas of agriculture and forestry. However, development of the emerging bioeconomy also requires public and private investments in research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) that facilitate sustainable, energy efficient, and competitive Canadian industries. Canada’s predominantly small firms lack the foundational knowledge for developing the bioeconomy and do not have the expertise and/or the resources to undertake the necessary research.

Alignment with Government Priorities and NRCan Strategic Objectives

The Strategic Priority funds R&D projects with the objective of reducing fossil fuel energy consumption, reducing GHG and other emissions, diversifying the energy supply, and developing an economy based on bioenergy. These are consistent with Canada’s commitments for climate change, for delivering on Canada’s Economic Action Plan, and for achieving the four components of Canada’s Renewable Fuels Strategy, as well as Canada’s Renewable Fuels Regulations that took effect December 15, 2010.

Initiatives that facilitate the development of the bioeconomy within Canada, and lead to decreased reliance on non-renewable energy sources and reduced GHG and other pollutants, align well with NRCan’s strategic outcome ‘to be a world leader on environmental responsibility in the development and use of natural resources’.

Alignment with Federal Roles and Responsibilities

Several federal Acts provide the authority for federal involvement in the type of activities funded through the Strategic Priority; these include Section 21 of the Energy Efficiency Act and Section 6 of the Natural Resources Act. The funded R&D projects are considered necessary to fill knowledge gaps and contribute towards research that Canadian firms could not conduct on their own. Canadian firms, which are predominantly small firms, identify the lack of financial capital as a main barrier in bioproduct development. Federal investment in this area will assist Canada in taking advantage of the opportunities brought about by the development of the bioeconomy and to ensure capturing the economic benefits all along the value chain rather than simply becoming a biomass supplier to other countries.

Performance

Achievement of Expected Outcomes

The evaluation revealed that the Strategic Priority is making progress in achieving immediate outcomes. Project activity is highly focused in the areas of increased knowledge and understanding of new and existing biomass resource potential, biofuels, and bioenergy, and new and improved applications for biomass conversion technologies. Projects are generating and disseminating a large number of knowledge products related to biomass resources and conversion technologies in the form of research papers, workshops/conferences, patents, etc.

Partnerships and collaborations established both through the funded projects and the governance activities are a strong feature of the Strategic Priority. Other federal science-based departments and agencies (SBDAs) are involved in the governance aspects of the Strategic Priority. Additionally, as project leads, several SBDAs are direct beneficiaries of the Strategic Priority. Most projects have partners, including other federal departments, provincial governments, private industry, universities and other research organizations. All stakeholders view the partnerships as important to the success of the projects and also attribute the projects to fostering the relations between stakeholders.

Progress towards intermediate outcomes is more qualitative or anecdotal, and revealed, for example, through stakeholder opinion and examples given in interviews or case studies of projects. While projects are viewed as having good potential for GHG and CAC emission reductions and other environmental benefits, these are expected to occur in the future. From the program’s logic model, intermediate outcomes are expected in five to ten years, while final outcomes are expected in 2020 and beyond.

Several estimates of potential GHG emission reductions with development and usage of specific bioenergy applications were revealed, but none were on a project-by-project basis that allowed for an aggregate estimate overall for the Strategic Priority. There is also wide belief that significant potential exists for the R&D to contribute towards creation of new value-added opportunities and creation/expansion of existing industries. However, as most projects are conducting basic or applied/bench-scale research, most are not yet at the stage of commercialization. Some evidence of projects reaching or approaching the commercialization stage was revealed through stakeholder interviews, case studies and in the file review of annual reports.

Demonstration of Efficiency and Economy

The Strategic Priority has developed a structured process for determining support for projects based on a consensual approach from a representative S&T Portfolio Committee, and using a common set of criteria that considers relevance, risks and both economic and environmental impacts. Most stakeholders were satisfied with the allocation of funds between subprograms. Projects in Subprograms 1 and 2 received the bulk of the funds over the evaluation period (84 percent). Subprograms 3 and 4 were cancelled effective April 2010.

The Strategic Priority projects leveraged a high level of funding from project partners. Every dollar of program funds invested over the five-year period leveraged $2.91 (cash and in-kind) in investments from all partners, and $2.22 from non-federal partners. Private industry are significant partners, representing over half (55 percent) of partner funding (cash and in-kind) when funds from federal partners are excluded.

While a variety of other bioenergy-related initiatives exist at both the federal and provincial/territorial level, many of these appear to be more related to providing support at or near the commercialization stage. Without a full assessment of these other initiatives, it is difficult to assess the extent to which the Strategic Priority projects complement or duplicate these initiatives, although stakeholders widely believed that the projects play a complementary role providing research at the foundational level.

The Strategic Priority has a well laid-out and common reporting structure and strives to ensure that all projects follow their due diligence, and that information is summarized in an annual report. Some of the reporting on results by projects could be used to a greater extent to show progress towards achievement of intermediate and end outcomes.

While the Strategic Priority has a well-established governance structure, some committees meet irregularly, if at all. The Strategic Priority does not appear to make full use of the available non-federal expertise on the External Advisory Panel (EAP). Reduced funding to the Strategic Priority, including the cancellation of Subprograms 3 and 4, may have the impact of reduced cooperation and collaboration from non-NRCan federal partners interested in the bioeconomy.

Recommendations, Management Responses and Action Plans

Recommendations Management Responses and Action Plans Responsible Official/Sector
(Target Date)
1. NRCan should review the Strategic Priority’s current governance structure given that some of the committees are not fully used, and determine the best use of the resources currently assigned to committees. This would include assessing use of the External Advisory Panel and whether greater use could be made of the external expertise available through the External Advisory Panel. ADM Energy Sector
(October 2013)
2. NRCan should maintain a consolidated ongoing financial recording of project funds. This should be set up in a manner which provides historical context of project funding, including recognition of projects continued under different funding initiatives and with different project numbers, or continued in phases. Accepted. Starting with the next PERD cycle in March 2013, OERD will implement a consolidated and ongoing financial record of project funds providing linkages or lineage to historical projects. This record would include projects currently funded under the Strategic Priority. ADM Energy Sector
(July 2013)
3. NRCan, in consultation with the other federal departments conducting biofuels/bioenegry initiatives, should review the future direction of Sustainable Bioenergy given the need to ensure the most effective use of its limited resources. Accepted. NRCan is undertaking a forward looking analysis of the bioeconomy as well as a broader review of energy innovation, including the results of the McKinsey economic analysis presently underway. ADM Energy Sector
(May 2014)

1.0 Introduction and Background

1.1 Introduction

This is an evaluation of Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) Energy Sector Sustainable Bioenergy Strategic Priority. The evaluation is a requirement under the Strategic Evaluation Division’s (SED) 2011–12 workplan. The evaluation covers program activities from 2006–07 to 2010–11.

The Sustainable Bioenergy Sub-sub Activity is one of six strategic priority areas for NRCan’s Clean Energy Science and Technology (S&T) Sub-Activity. Energy S&T supports NRCan’s clean energy program activities for reducing the environmental impacts of energy production.Footnote 1 The Sub-sub Activity consists of one program: Bio-Based Energy Systems and Technology (BEST). This Program involves providing funds for research and development (R&D) projects that fall within one of four subprograms: Sustainable Feedstock; Biomass Conversion; Biorefineries and Bioplexes; and Governance, Sustainability, and Performance Measurement. The latter two subprograms were cancelled during the evaluation period (as of April 1, 2010) as a result of a departmental Strategic Review, but are still included within the evaluation.

Projects are led by federal science-based departments and agencies (SBDA) and usually involve partner agencies, such as other federal departments/agencies, provinces/territories, universities, and private industry. The Sub-sub Activity received a total of $56.6 million ($33.4 million from the Strategic Priority and $23.2 million from other federal sources) in federal funding over the five-year evaluation period. These funds, along with the non-federal partner contributions of $74.0 million (cash and in-kind funding), resulted in total Sub-sub Activity resources of $130.6 million.

Context

Bioenergy is an increasingly active research area in Canada and in many other countries searching for renewable and sustainable energy sources. Canada’s energy demands, as well as GHG emissions, are expected to increase by approximately 11 percent between 2010 and 2020.Footnote 2 Faced with non-renewable fossil fuels and the environmental impacts they create, many governments are seeking alternatives. Conversion of biomass into bioenergy and other useful bioproducts has the potential for contributing to the climate change solution and providing economic benefits to Canada. Currently, bioenergy makes up about six per cent of Canada’s total energy supply, and Canada strives to increase this share through further development of bioenergy technologies.Footnote 3

A sustainable bio-economy is expected to provide Canadians with both environmental and economic benefits. This includes a diversified and more secure energy mix with increased reliance on cleaner renewable energy resulting in reduced GHG and CAC emissions. Reduced GHG emissions are expected to occur through replacement of fossil fuels with biofuels, reduced energy consumption by adoption of improved biotechnologies, and biogas generation from methane-producing wastes such as livestock manure and municipal solid wastes.Footnote 4

These benefits will result from public and private investments in research, development, and demonstration that facilitate sustainable, energy efficient and competitive Canadian industries. This will involve the creation of new industries and new markets for agricultural commodities, and will contribute to employment and economic growth as well as revitalized rural and Aboriginal communities.Footnote 5

Furthermore, the co-products of bioenergy production – as feedstocks for manufacturing chemicals and products – will create additional economic benefits and reduce reliance on traditional hydrocarbon inputs for such products.Footnote 6 Production of value-added co-products also assists in offsetting the bioenergy production costs.Footnote 7

It is possible for Canada to take advantage of bioenergy opportunities, with a large and under-utilized land base containing a high volume of forestry bioresources, as well as arable land for cultivating bioresource materials. However, Canada’s private sector, consisting of primarily small companies, is not viewed as having the capacity for investing in the required R&D. Federal government investments assist with R&D and technology development so Canadian companies can take advantage of the opportunities brought about by the development of a bioeconomy.Footnote 8

As well, the economic viability of bioenergy is dependent on a number of factors. Viability and interest in bioenergy increases with:

  • high oil prices that make biofuels more attractive;
  • technological advances that extract the most value from biomass supplies for the least cost;
  • increasingly stringent environmental protection measures;
  • increasing energy demand; and
  • increasing emphasis for industries to diversify and find new areas of growth.

Developing the bioeconomy is dependent on sustainable sources of biomass. Forest biomass includes: conventional forest management residues, or primary residues (e.g., harvest residues, thinning, non-commercial species); wood processing industry by-products, or secondary residues (e.g., sawdust, shavings); construction and other users of wood products by-products, or tertiary residues. Agricultural biomass is made up of current agricultural crops used for energy production, and crop and livestock wastes. Municipal wastes are used either as municipal solid wastes (MSW) that are currently directed to landfills or municipal biosolids (e.g., sewage).

In addition, there are dedicated energy crops that are grown specifically for bioenergy generation, with two main classes of such crops being woody crops and herbaceous crops. The former generally include fast-growing trees grown in short rotation crop plantations, such as, willows, poplars, robinia, and eucalyptus.Footnote 9

Biomass has potential as a feedstock for generating electricity, heat, transportation fuels, as well as various co-products. Pelletization of wood products has potential as a heat source, while options for generating electricity from biomass include biomass coal co-firing, biomass-integrated gasification combined cycle, and direct combustion.Footnote 10

Biofuels are transportation fuels derived from biomass. The two primary biofuels are ethanol and biodiesel, which are typically blended with conventional gasoline or diesel. Corn and wheat accounted for 67 percent and 31 percent, respectively, of Canada’s 2009 ethanol production.Footnote 11 Biodiesel is produced by combining vegetable oil or animal fat with alcohol and a catalyst.Footnote 12 Examples of uses for chemicals currently produced using fossil fuels that could be produced from biomass (excepting transportation fuels) include: plastics; fertilizers; soaps, detergents, and other personal care products; asphalt; lubricating oils and greases; synthetic rubbers; and styrene, benzene, toluene, and xylene.Footnote 13 Similarly, it is believed that biomaterials could replace building and construction materials, car/aircraft components, biomedical devices, textiles, and packaging and containers currently manufactured using fossil fuels.Footnote 14

However, challenges also exist for developing the bioeconomy. Transportation costs are an issue given that biomass is bulky and is often sourced from locations distant from processing or export facilities. Economies of scale are an important factor affecting viability of operations producing biofuels and other bioenergy. Small operations face serious challenges in competing with larger facilities that can produce output more cheaply.Footnote 15 According to Statistics Canada’s Bioproducts Development Survey, small firms accounted for 81 percent of the 208 identified bioproduct firms in Canada in 2009, while medium and large firms accounted for seven percent and 13 percent, respectively.Footnote 16

Lack of financial capital is an important constraint for developing and producing bioproducts.Footnote 17 In the above mentioned Statistics Canada survey, the lack of financial capital was the highest rated barrier to bioproduct development identified by small firms, and one of the highest by medium and large firms.Footnote 18 The recent global recession has added to this constraint with fewer funds available from financial institutions, private investors and the government for developing the bioeconomy.Footnote 19

Second generation biofuels, which are derived from non-food biomass stock, are considered to have potential advantages over first generation biofuels, which may be derived from sources that could be used as food. Advantages include that the former do not redirect products from the food supply and that they may also generate significantly larger GHG emission reductions. However, second generation biofuels are not currently produced commercially, and require “intensive research, development and demonstration/deployment/ dissemination efforts over the next 10-15 years.”Footnote 20

1.2 Overview of the Sustainable Bioenergy Sub-sub Activity

1.2.1 Program Activity Architecture (PAA) for the Sustainable Bioenergy Sub-sub Activity

NRCan’s PAA outlines the planning for all departmental activities. The PAA identifies seven program activities (PA) each supported by a range of sub- and sub-sub activities; all activities are contributing to one of three strategic outcomes. The Clean Energy Program Activity and its components contribute to NRCan’s Strategic Outcome #2, which states that, “Canada is a world leader on environmental responsibility in the development and use of natural resources.”Footnote 21 The Clean Energy Program Activity involves the development and delivery of energy-related S&T research, policies, program legislation, and regulations to increase energy efficiency. The goals of this PA are to reduce GHG emissions and other negative energy production-related environmental impacts. Within the PA is the Sub-Activity Energy S&T, within which is the Sub-sub activity Sustainable Bioenergy.

1.2.2 Objectives for the Sub-sub Activity

The goals of the Sustainable Bioenergy Sub-sub Activity (hereafter referred to as the Strategic Priority) within Energy S&T are to: reduce fossil fuel energy consumption; directly or indirectly reduce GHG and CAC emissions; diversify the energy supply; and seed the development of Canada’s bio-based economy by advancing the development of bioenergy, biofuels and bioproducts by substituting for petroleum products and increasing energy efficiency.Footnote 22 Planning for targeting of the R&D funds for sustainable bioenergy first involved identifying key gaps and opportunities related to biomass supply, biomass conversion and utilization technologies, integration of the bioenergy industry along the value chain, and other non-technological gaps (policy and regulatory, public acceptability, environmental, communication, etc.).Footnote 23

1.2.3 Key Stakeholders and Beneficiaries

Partnerships and collaboration are central features of Sustainable Bioenergy activities. Partners participate in projects, while federal partners are involved in the governance and decision-making process for the portfolio. Key stakeholders include those involved in the governance of the Strategic Priority and project participants. Partners involved in governance include other federal science-based departments and agencies (SBDA). While these are discussed in more detail in Section 1.4.3 below, examples of federal departments besides NRCan involved in the governance of the Strategic Priority include:

  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC);
  • Environment Canada (EC);
  • Industry Canada (IC);
  • National Research Council (NRC); and
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

Project leads other than NRCan include AAFC, EC, IC, and NRC. Project partners that may also directly benefit from the research include federal departments/agencies (primarily the same departments that served as project leads) as well as private industry, provincial governments, universities and other research organizations. Specific examples of partners that directly benefit from these projects are provided in Section 4.2.1.

Overall, beneficiaries include government policy and decision-makers, forest industry, agricultural industry (including agricultural producers), other landowners that may benefit from their land used as a biomass resource, municipal and rural governments, and companies that produce bioenergy or other bioproducts. Project reach – revealed through the file review of annual reports for 2009-10 and 2010-11 – showed a wide range of anticipated beneficiaries from project findings. Most frequently, this included government policy and decision-makers, the scientific and academic community, and industry (this is discussed further in the findings section).

Furthermore, the general public should ultimately benefit from alternate sources of energy and other bioproducts, increased employment and other economic opportunities, as well as improved environmental conditions due to reduced air pollution.

1.2.4 Sub-sub Activity Program Activity Structure

The Strategic Priority of Sustainable Bioenergy contains one portfolio: Bio-Based Energy Systems. The objective of Bio-Based Energy Systems is to “use R&D to harness the availability of bioresources to produce sustainable feedstock for the production of bioenergy, biofuels, bioproducts, and industrial bioprocesses that will help Canadian government, industry and society meet clean air, efficiency, sustainability and climate change challenges.”Footnote 24 The portfolio, in turn, consists of one program: Bio-Based Energy Systems and Technology (BEST).

1.3 Bio-Based Energy Systems and Technology Overview

1.3.1 Program Objectives, Expected Results and Rationale

The objective of BEST is “to develop sustainable and cost effective technologies in bioenergy, bioproducts and bioprocesses for market acceptance, utilizing biological resources/biomass in a sustainable and responsible way.”Footnote 25 The current logic model for the BEST activities was implemented in 2008–09 for ecoENERGY Technology Initiative (ecoETI) funded activities and, in 2009–10, for PERD-funded activities. An earlier logic model existed for Sustainable Bioenergy projects funded through the Technology and Innovation (T&I) R&D Initiative and that was also used for PERD up to the end of the previous program cycle in 2008–09. As most outputs and outcomes in the earlier logic model are similar to and can be directly linked to those in the current logic model, the evaluation used the most current logic model to support one consolidated evaluation matrix.

Outputs: Outputs are largely in the area of provision of knowledge, data, analysis, methods, and techniques, such as contributing to development of policies, codes, standards, and regulations; and knowledge sharing activities such as research partnerships with other stakeholders, including international collaborations, as well as knowledge sharing materials, such as publications, presentations and workshops. Other outputs include: new and improved systems, databases, technologies, and tools; scale-ups of research from bench- or lab- to pilot-scale, to demonstrations and case studies; and patents and licenses.

Immediate outcomes: The identified immediate outcomes, categorized into four areas in the logic model, are primarily knowledge gained through the outputs, development of new or improved applications for conversion technologies, and strengthened relationships between stakeholders. Knowledge gained will assist in better understanding the biomass resource, biofuels, bioenergy, and biorefineries, and assist in developing the relevant policies, codes, standards, and regulations. Immediate outcomes are expected to occur in five years.

Intermediate outcomes: The logic model outlines three intermediate outcomes in the areas of increasing the biomass supply, production of new and/or improved technology systems for utilizing the biomass feedstocks, and adoption of new and/or improved standards regulations, and policies related to bioenergy. Intermediate outcomes are expected to occur in five to 10 years.

Final outcome: The various activities undertaken through the subprograms and their outputs and outcomes are expected to contribute towards one rather broad final outcome of “development of the technologies, systems, knowledge and policies to support the development of a sustainable Canadian bioeconomy.”Footnote 26 Final outcomes are not expected to occur until 2020 and beyond. Missing from the logic model is identification of the uptake of systems, processes and technologies by Canadian industry, and how this will result in the expected environmental benefits of reduced GHGs and CACs and the expected economic benefits of commercialization of the biomass supply.

1.3.2 Delivery Structure

In the current funding cycle of 2009 to 2013, the portfolio’s R&D is conducted within the four subprograms outlined in Table 1, and with each subprogram described below.

Table 1: Placement of Sustainable Bioenergy and BEST in NRCan’s PAA
PAA component Number Description
Strategic outcome 2 Environmental responsibility: Canada is a world leader on environmental responsibility in the development and use of natural resources
Program Activity 2.1 Clean energy
Program Sub-activity 2.1.4 Energy Science and Technology
Program Sub-sub Activity or Strategic Priority 2.1.4.6 Sustainable Bioenergy
Portfolio 6.1 Bio-Based Energy Systems
Program 6.1.1 Bio-Based Energy Systems and Technology (BEST)
Subprogram 1 Sustainable feedstock
Subprogram 2 Biomass Conversion
Subprogram* 3 Biorefineries and Bioplexes
Subprogram* 4 Governance, Sustainability and Performance Measurement

*Subprograms 3 and 4 were cancelled as of April 1, 2010.

Subprogram 1 - Sustainable feedstock: While the bioeconomy is viewed as having the potential to revitalize Canada’s agricultural and forestry industries, successful development depends on sustainable feedstock. The objective of this subprogram is for improved availability of sustainable biomass supply from Canada’s forestry and agricultural sector, as well as from “organic opportunity residues” which include municipal solid waste and algae.Footnote 27 An improved biomass supply entails one that is available, accessible, reliable, affordable, and sustainable.Footnote 28 Sustainable feedstock R&D considers the production and logistics of feedstocks as it relates to energy and generates information for the planning and costing of bioenergy and bioproducts facilities. This involves taking into account the regional characteristics of production and demand for biomass given the economic limitations associated with transporting biomass.Footnote 29
Subprogram activities also include consideration of technologies for bioenergy plantations in the Canadian climate (e.g., adaptation, establishment, maintenance). This involves, for example, demonstration projects and research on species with desirable traits.Footnote 30 While program documents identify a variety of expected outputs for each subprogram, examples of outputs for sustainable feedstock are related to:

  • models for predicting biomass as well as web-based applications;
  • development of biomass inventories, harvesting technologies, and criteria for sustainable removal;
  • R&D in biomass production techniques such as clone selection, biocontrol methods, plantation development, and biomass harvesting;
  • R&D on environmental impacts of biomass removal, such as impact on GHG emissions and on soil, air, and water quality; and
  • international collaboration. Footnote 31

Subprogram 2 – Biomass Conversion: Subprogram 2 supports R&D that advances the development of thermochemical, biochemical and physical-chemical systems and technologies that can be used to convert sustainably-available biomass feedstocks into bioenergy, biofuels and bioproducts. Footnote 32 The objective is “to move new and/or improved viable technologies further along the innovation curve”Footnote 33. R&D conducted within this subprogram strives for new or improved cost-effective technologies for biomass conversion and focuses on: R&D for reductions in fossil fuel energy intensity; development of viable conversion processes; and improvements in the efficiency, economic viability, and commercial adoption of these processes. This is expected to assist in addressing knowledge gaps and contribute to increased economic viability of the technology. Footnote 34

Examples of expected outputs for this subprogram include:

  • improvements to handling, storage, transportation and processing of biomass and feedstocks;
  • knowledge of pyrolysis technology, pyrolysis oils and pyrolytic liquid fuels;
  • knowledge of other biofuel production (e.g., cellulosic ethanol production, biobutanol production, renewable diesel and aviation fuels, syngas);
  • knowledge of economy and efficiency of various systems;
  • international collaboration; and
  • policy input.

Subprogram 3 - Biorefineries and Bioplexes: Subprogram 3 related to identifying and developing promising biorefinery systems that integrate the production and conversion of biomass into bioenergy, biofuels and industrial bioproducts. A biorefinery is an industrial facility that uses a variety of technologies to transform biomass into marketable products and energy.Footnote 35 The focus of this subprogram was on S&T related to the entire value chain from a given feedstock to the final products, and looked at processes and systems that could produce bioenergy, biofuels and bioproducts.Footnote 36 The primary activity conducted under this subprogram was the development of a knowledge network to improve knowledge sharing and collaboration between government, industry, and research organizations for “continual improvement of the economic and environmental performance of Biorefineries and enabling policies in Canada.”Footnote 37 This was expected to assist in closing the gap in terms of Canadian practical experience in pilot or demonstration scale biorefineries. Integration of biorefineries with existing industries/utilities shows promise for economic and efficient biofuel and bioenergy production. The expected outputs from this subprogram were the knowledge network itself, and related activities such as a web portal to facilitate webinars and video conferencing, annual meetings, performance measurement tools and contribution to policy. This subprogram was cancelled effective April 1, 2010 because of a departmental Strategic Review.

Subprogram 4 - Governance, Sustainability and Performance Measurement: Work conducted under this program assisted in evaluating bioproducts and bioprocesses for sustainability, performance, utility, and efficacy. This included development of baseline environmental data and assessment tools.Footnote 38 This information was to be shared with Canadian stakeholders to assist in making comparisons to conventional products and processes and in making informed decisions regarding investments in these bioproducts/bioprocesses. Baseline environmental data and assessment tools are important given the developing nature of the bioeconomy, the potential opportunities these present to Canada and the current lack of baseline data.Footnote 39 Given the financial commitments made by Canada in developing the biofuel industry, research under this subprogram was expected to assist Canada in demonstrating that “the sustainable development of its bio-industrial initiatives is an imperative.”Footnote 40 This subprogram was also cancelled as a result of the Strategic Review.

Subprogram 1 – Sustainable feedstock:

  • AAFC – biomass inventories; biomass harvesting, preparation, storage and transportation technologies; agricultural biomass environmental benefits; and regulations; and
  • NRCan CFS – similar to AAFC but with regard to purpose-grown woody biomass.

Subprogram 2 – Biomass Conversion:

  • NRCan, CanmetENERGY– waste to energy conversion; conversion and utilization; and
  • NRC – bio-products and biorefineries, biogas.

Subprogram 3 – Biorefineries and Bioplexes:

  • IC – technology assessment, econometric analysis, linkages of technology and policy development in biofuels, bioproducts, and biorefining.

Subprogram 4 – Governance, Sustainability and Performance Measurement:

  • EC – environmental sustainability assessment; and
  • NRCan, CanmetENERGY– operationalizing assessment frameworks for designing more sustainable bio-based systems.

Environmental data on biofuels are an expected output, including emissions profiles and comparisons of performance; compilation and validation of an environmental evaluation framework; a biofuel guidebook; synthesis and testing of sustainability planning and assessment approaches; and international collaboration.

The main federal partners participating in projects involved in each of the subprograms and their areas of expertise are summarized below as of 2009.Footnote 41 All partners are cited as having strong networks with industry, academia, and other levels of governments – both within Canada and internationally – with their work carried out in partnerships with these networks. Partners may collaborate on specific initiatives or by providing expertise and/or facilities through in-kind contributions.

Activities occur in the federal laboratories of AAFC, EC, IC, NRC, NRCan-Canadian Forest Service and NRCan-CanmetENERGY, as well as at partner facilities.

The Bio-Based Energy Systems portfolio had approximately 30 active projects annually over the evaluation period. Many of these are ongoing projects. Most projects are conducted within either the Sustainable Feedstock or Biomass Conversion subprograms.

Sustainable Bioenergy also includes international activities most of which are conducted as components of specific-funded projects within the four subprograms, or as a result of this work.

International activities: Many other countries are investing in R&D in the bioeconomy for energy supply security reasons, as well as to realize the economic benefits that may accrue from the bioeconomy.Footnote 42 Canada is viewed as having a competitive advantage because of our large landmass, renewable resources supply and technological strengths. Collaborations with other countries – in terms of knowledge sharing and partnering in scientific and technical programs – is expected to strengthen and provide further benefits to Canada’s efforts to develop the bioeconomy.Footnote 43

The Office of Energy Research and Development (OERD) coordinates many of these activities and other SBDA members of the Portfolio Committee take active roles. The International Energy Agency (IEA) consists of 28 member-countries that conduct initiatives for ensuring “reliable, affordable, and clean energy”.Footnote 44 As a member of IEA for the evaluation period, Canada participated in 13 bioenergy-related tasks under an IEA Bioenergy Implementing Agreement, with some of this conducted through the Sustainable Bioenergy Strategic Priority.

NRCan has responsibility for developing the federal government’s priorities, plans and programs for Energy S&T.Footnote 45 NRCan’s OERD and CanmetENERGY jointly manage energy S&T. The OERD coordinates the Government of Canada’s energy R&D activities, with 13 federal SBDAs currently receiving R&D funds from OERD.Footnote 46 CanmetENERGY – supported by 450 scientists, engineers, and technicians – is the primary federal body conducting energy R&D.Footnote 47

OERD serves as the coordinator of the Sustainable Bioenergy Strategic Priority. OERD’s responsibilities include providing management and administrative support in the areas of: funding initiative operations; meeting accountability requirements; provision of technical and expert advice; provision of secretariat support to governing bodies; and networking and outreach with other stakeholders.Footnote 48

In the previous funding cycle (2004-09), which overlaps with the evaluation period, the program was structured around four activities which closely aligned with the four subprograms:

  • Activity 1: Existing and new biomass supply—aligns with Subprogram 1;
  • Activity 2: Biomass conversion and utilization technologies—aligns with Subprogram 2;
  • Activity 3: Integrated ‘Bio’ Applications—aligns with Subprogram 3; and
  • Activity 4: Cross-cutting issues—aligns with Subprogram 4.
1.4.3 Sustainable Bioenergy Governance

Sustainable Bioenergy shares a common management and governance structure with the other five strategic priority areas of the Energy S&T Sub Activity. The governance structure revolves around the collaborative nature of the funding agents – PERD and the ecoETI – which provide for the participation of all federal departments with energy S&T interests. The shared governance structure incorporates all federal SBDAs in the accountability and decision-making process. The governance and program delivery, specifically for Sustainable Bioenergy, can be summarized as outlined in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Governance and Program Delivery for Sustainable BioenergyFootnote 49

Sustainable Bioenery

Larger image

Text version - Figure 1

Text version of image: Sustainable Bioenery

Figure 1 is a diagram outlining the governance and program delivery structure for sustainable bioenergy. It contains five rows of connected boxes.

  • The first row contains one box with the title: ADM Panel on Energy S&T”.  The next line lists “Chair - ADM Energy Sector, NRCan”. The following line lists the “7 SBDAs (AAFC, DFO, EC, HC, IC, NRC, NRCan)”.  A line is drawn leading down from this box.
  • Row two begins with an off-shoot of the line dropping down from row one, with this line pointed towards the right and connecting to a second box. This box is titled: “DG Committee on Energy S&T”, notes that the “Chair – DG, OERD”, and lists the “15 SBDAs, TBS, and Dept. of Finance”.
  • Row three is a box connected to the line dropping down from box one. This box is titled “PERD Management (NRCan/OERD)” and lists “Portfolio Committee Chair” below. A line drops down out of the bottom of this box.
  • Row four contains four boxes. The second box falls directly under the line dropping down from row three. It is titled “BEST S&T Portfolio Committee” and lists the “Chair – Assistant Program Director, OERD”.  A line drops out of the bottom of this box to row five.  To the left of this box is the first box of row four. It is connected with a line drawn across from box two of row four. It is titled “Interdepartmental DG Committee on the Bio-Economy” and lists the “Chair – DG, OERD”.  To the right of box two of row four there is a line pointed at 45 degrees and another line pointed at 135 degrees. Connected to each of these lines are other boxes. Box three of row four is titled “CBIN Executive Committee” and lists the “Chair – Assistant Program Director, OERD”.  Box four of row four is titled “External Advisory Panel” and list the “Chair – Enterprise Saskatchewan”.
  • Row five contains one box, connected to the line dropping down from box two in row four. It contains the text “Project Leaders (AAFC, EC, IC, NRCan/CanmetENERGY, and NRCan/CFS”.
 

The governing bodies and their responsibilities are described in Appendix B.

2.0 Resources

Sustainable Bioenergy received funding primarily from three sources over the course of the evaluation period: PERD, which is an ongoing federal interdepartmental program; the Biotechnology component of the T&I R&D Initiative; and the ecoETI. For the last year of the evaluation period (2010–11), the Bio-Based Energy Systems Portfolio also managed four projects under NRCan’s Clean Energy Fund (CEF) R&D Initiative.

PERD projects are generally on a four-year funding cycle and ecoETI projects on a three-year sunsetting program. PERD funded 17 active projects in 2010–11 and ecoETI 11 (Table 2). The Biotechnology component of the T&I R&D Initiative funded 21 projects in 2006–07 and 15 in 2007–08. In addition, five projects received funding from both PERD and T&I R&D in 2006-07 and six projects in 2007-08. Some T&I R&D Initiative projects continued as either PERD or ecoETI projects. Given the multi-year nature of projects and the continuation of some projects through different funding sources, the Sustainable Bioenergy Strategic Priority had a total of 61 funded projects over the evaluation period.

Table 2: Number of Bio-Based Energy Systems Projects, by funding source, 2006-07 to 2010-11
2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11
PERD 18 11 22 18 17
T&I R&D Initiative 21 15 n/a n/a n/a
PERD/T&I shared 5 6 n/a n/a n/a
ecoETI n/a n/a 12 13 11
CEF n/a n/a n/a n/a 4
Total 44 32 34 31 32

Sources: NRCan, Bio-Based Energy Systems, annual reports;Footnote 50 spreadsheets provided by OERD for 2009–10 and 2010–11.
n/a – not applicable


Table 3 summarizes the allocation of PERD, ecoETI, T&I R&D Initiative, and CEF funds to the Bio-Based Energy Systems Portfolio, by fiscal year and budgetary item. Funds distributed through all four initiatives totalled $33.4 million over the five-year evaluation period, with annual allocation ranging between close to $5.0 million and $8.5 million. Salaries and employee benefit plans (EBP) accounted for over one third (39 percent) of total expenditures, at almost $13 million, while operations and maintenance (O&M) accounted for 44 percent. Close to $6 million was distributed as grants and contributions (G&Cs).

PERD accounted for close to half (46 percent) of these funds over the entire evaluation period, while ecoETI and the T&I R&D Initiative accounted for 18 percent and 33 percent, respectively. CEF accounted for only a minor proportion of total funds.

Table 3: Bio-Based Energy Systems Funding from OERD, by Component, 2006-07 to 2010-11
Source and category 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 Totals % of totals
($ million)
Funding by source
PERD $2.44 $3.29 $3.50 $3.06 $3.25 $15.53 46%
ecoETI n/a n/a $2.27 $2.06 $1.72 $6.05 18%
T&I R&D Initiative $5.76 $5.16 n/a n/a n/a $10.92 33%
CEF n/a n/a n/a n/a $0.90 $0.90 3%
Total $8.20 $8.45 $5.77 $5.12 $5.87 $33.40 100%
Funding breakdown (PERD, ecoETI, T&I R&D & CEF) % of total funding
Salaries/EBP $2.49 $2.96 $2.38 $2.53 $2.75 $13.11 39%
O&M $4.17 $4.03 $2.46 $1.91 $2.05 $14.63 44%
G&C $1.54 $1.45 $0.92 $0.68 $1.06 $5.66 17%
Total $8.20 $8.45 $5.77 $5.12 $5.86 $33.40 100%

Sources: NRCan, OERD Financial Summary - BIO.xls; I-BIO.xls; CEF RD Project Database - March 2011 (Evaluation).xls.
n/a – not applicable.

Full-time equivalents (FTEs) allocated to the Bio-Based Energy Systems portfolio activities totalled between 31 and 39 for 2008–09 to 2010–11 (Table 4); FTEs are not available for the T&I R&D Initiative and CEF, nor for PERD for 2006–07.

Table 4: Bio-Based Energy Systems FTEs, by Component, 2006-07 to 2010-11*
2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11
PERD Not available 2 13 12 12
ecoETI n/a n/a 26 19 24
Totals Not available 2 39 31 36

Sources: NRCan, OERD Financial Summary - BIO.xls; I-BIO.xls.
n/a – not applicable.
*FTEs were not available for CEF.

Subprogram 2 – biomass conversion projects received over half (54 percent) of the total funds over the five-year evaluation period, followed by Subprogram 1 – Sustainable Feedstock, which received close to one-third (30 percent) of the funds (Table 5). Subprograms 3 and 4 together received 16 percent of the total funds allocated over the five-year period. Please note that these figures differ slightly from those presented in Table 3 due to rounding in annual reports.

Table 5: Bio-Based Energy Systems Funding from OERD, by Subprogram, 2006-07 to 2010-11
Subprogram 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 Total % of total
($ million)
1. Sustainable feedstock 2.45 2.66 1.62 1.58 1.57 9.87 30%
2. Biomass Conversion 4.15 3.67 3.67 3.12 3.42 18.03 54%
3. Biorefineries and Bioplexes 1.46 1.46 0.06 0.03 - 3.00 9%
4. Governance, Sustainability and Performance Measurement 0.55 0.50 0.26 0.26 0.74 2.31 7%
Total 8.61 8.29 5.60 4.99 5.73 33.21 100%

*Subprograms 3 and 4 cancelled effective April 1, 2010; Subprogram 4 received some wind-down funding beyond this date
Source: Provided by OERD; 2010-11 funds for CEF from RD Project Database - March 2011 (Evaluation).xls.

Partners also provided significant funds for portfolio projects (Table 6). The $33.4 million of program funds allocated over 2006–07 to 2010–11 leveraged a total of $97.2 million from partners, for a total $130.6 million of investments in these projects.
Partner investments are either as cash ($63.05 million) or as in-kind contributions ($34.1 million). Most of these leveraged funds came from non-federal government partners ($74.0 million). Every dollar of program funds invested over the five-year period leveraged $2.91 in investments from all partners, and $2.22 from non-federal partners.Footnote 51

Table 6: Bio-Based Energy Systems Cash and In-kind Contributions, from All Sources, 2006-07 to 2010-11
Source 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 Total % of Grand Total
($ million)
Cash contributions
A-base* 12.51 11.63 6.52 6.26 7.10 44.02 35%
Non-federal Partners 13.04 20.75 9.52 4.29 4.84 52.43 40%
Total Cash** 25.96 32.43 17.66 10.53 11.82 98.40 74%
In-kind contributions
Federal Partners 0.43 2.45 2.72 2.54 4.46 12.60 10%
Non-federal Partners 3.81 4.00 3.00 5.83 4.89 21.52 16%
Total in-kind** 4.24 6.45 5.72 8.37 9.35 34.12 26%
Grand total** 30.20 38.88 23.38 18.90 21.17 130.57 100%
Leveraged/
program funds
Total leveraged amount 21.58 30.38 15.98 13.81 15.42 97.17 2.90
Non-federal leveraged amount 16.85 24.74 12.52 10.12 9.73 73.95 2.22

Source: NRCan, Annual Reports
*Includes A-base funds from NRCan (e.g., CanmetENERGY, NRCan-CFS) and other government departments. For a breakdown see Table 7.
**Totals may not all match; numbers and totals are from NRCan annual reports and likely do not match due to rounding.

Table 7 illustrates federal funding contributions from partners for 2006–07 to 2008–09,Footnote 52 excluding NRCan-OERD. AAFC, NRCan-CFS, and NRC all contributed over $4.0 million in A-Base funding over the 2006–07 to 2008–09 period. Other funding came from NRCan–CCRS, NRCan–CETC, Environment Canada, and Industry Canada. NRCan’s total funding over these three years amounted to $4.8 million, or 35 percent of federal funding funds.

Table 7: Federal Cash and In-Kind Contributions From partners, 2006-07 to 2008-09
Federal partner 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 Total from 2006-07 to 2008-09 % of Total
Cash In-kind Cash In-kind Cash In-kind Cash In-kind Total
($million)
AAFC 0.99 0.36 1.01 0.77 0.08 1.08 2.09 2.21 4.30 31%
NRCan – CFS 1.31 - 0.72 1.01 0.46 0.93 2.48 1.94 4.42 32%
NRC 1.77 - 1.29 0.65 0.09 0.59 3.14 1.24 4.38 32%
NRCan – CCRS - - - - - 0.10 - 0.10 0.10 1%
NRCan – CETC 0.12 0.07 0.10 - 0.02 - 0.24 0.07 0.30 2%
EC 0.08 - 0.06 0.01 0.06 0.02 0.20 0.03 0.23 2%
IC 0.06 - 0.01 0.02 0.04 - 0.10 0.02 0.12 1%
Totals 4.31 0.43 3.18 2.45 0.75 2.72 8.24 5.60 13.84 100%

Sources: OERD annual reports for 2006–07 to 2008–09.
Note: Totals may not all add due to rounding.

3.0 Evaluation Approach and Methodology

3.1 Evaluation Scope and Objectives

The objective of the study was to evaluate the Sustainable Bioenergy Strategic Priority’s relevance and performance (effectiveness, efficiency and economy). The evaluation covered the period from 2006-07 to 2010-11.

The evaluation began with an evaluation assessment, through which an evaluation matrix was designed to guide the evaluation. The matrix provided a series of questions to address each of the evaluation’s core issues, along with associated indicators and data sources. Questions addressing achievement of expected outcomes were based on the logic model for the Sustainable Bioenergy Strategic Priority. Indicators for the evaluation matrix were identified according to the logic model as well as project reporting requirements and program annual reporting.

3.2 Evaluation Methodologies

The evaluation was conducted in 2011 and early 2012 and included a document review, literature review, key informant interviews (n=38), a survey of project leaders, review of project annual reporting data, and case studies (n=5; however, one of the case studies involved two related projects, therefore six projects were included in the case study process). The 38 interviews involved 41 representatives from the following key stakeholder groups:

  • NRCan representatives (6 interviews involving 8 stakeholders);
  • other federal government representatives (7 interviews);
  • non-federal representatives (3 interviews);
  • project leaders (7 interviews); and
  • project partners (15 interviews involving 16 stakeholders).

Case studies of specific-funded projects involved interviews with project leaders and one or two of their partners and a review of documents. Appendix A provides a description of each case study project.

The original intent was for two surveys – one of project leaders and one of project partners – with partners identified through the project leader survey. However, despite best efforts to encourage responses, the project leader survey garnered a low response rate (14 useable responses out of a possible 41 project leaders). Energy Sector management considered this to be due, in part, to half of the surveyed project leaders having not been involved with OERD programs for a number of years. Therefore, the project partner survey was not possible. Those non-federal partners identified by project leaders that did respond were asked to participate in a short telephone interview in order to obtain their input.

3.3 Evaluation Limitations and Mitigation Strategies

The following summarizes the evaluation limitations and the mitigation steps taken.

  1. The Sustainable Bioenergy strategic activities are meant primarily to fund science and technology research and development projects. R&D is, by nature, a long-term process, particularly when involving biological systems that are subject to slow growth rates (e.g., trees and forests) and/or weather abnormalities (e.g., agricultural crops). Furthermore, most of the immediate outcomes identified are designed to increase knowledge. As a result, measuring progress over the five-year evaluation period presented a challenge. Therefore, the evaluation needed to rely primarily on achievement of outputs and immediate outcomes, and stakeholder opinion on how these have contributed to achieving intermediate and final outcomes, or have the potential to do so.
  2. Data maintained by the PERD program on the projects and their results are mainly in the form of written reports. Based on the evaluation assessment, OERD program staff appears to track some statistics, such as the number of outputs achieved annually, and dissemination of results. However, detailed results of the funded projects are held within each project’s annual status reports, their final reports when completed, and any publications, reports, or presentations that are either made publicly available or are posted on the Canadian Biomass Innovation Network website. In 2010, OERD program staff developed a spreadsheet including many of the fields from reporting templates for years 2008-09 to 2010-11 for ecoETI-funded projects, and 2009-10 to 2010-11 for PERD-funded projects. However, the evaluation did need to access individual reports for completing the file review.
  3. As described in the previous section, the original intent was to collect quantitative information through a survey of project leaders and their partners. Due to the low project leader response, the project partner survey was cancelled. However, the 14 project leader respondents did provide valuable information that was used to complement other lines of evidence. Additionally, short telephone interviews were conducted to obtain input from eight of the project partners identified by the respondent project leaders.

4.0 Evaluation Findings

4.1 Relevance

4.1.1 Continued Need for Program

Evaluation question Methodologies Assessment
1. Is there an ongoing need for the program? Document review; literature review; key informant interviews; survey of project leaders; case studies The evaluation found that there is an ongoing need for the activities undertaken within the Strategic Priority.

Summary: Canada has the potential to be a leader in the bioeconomy given its abundant potential biomass resources. Development of the bioenergy industry can assist Canada in meeting GHG and CAC emissions while creating employment and other economic opportunities, including diversification of traditional areas of agriculture and forestry. However, this will require continued focus in the area to overcome challenges and constraints, including the need for ongoing research. Canada’s predominantly small firms lack the foundational knowledge for developing the bioeconomy, and do not have the expertise and/or the resources to undertake the necessary research.

Is there a need for the activities conducted within the Sustainable Bioenergy Strategic Priority?

Potential exists for Canada to become a leader in the bioeconomy, but a perceived need exists for foundational research to facilitate this developing area. Climate change, perceived opportunities to diversify traditional areas of agriculture and forestry, as well as the importance placed on energy security are all major factors behind the drive to replace non-renewable energy sources with renewable sources, such as those from biomass.

There has been rapid growth in global demand for, and production of energy from biomass in recent years.Footnote 53 For example, between 2005 and 2010, ethanol production increased by an average of 23 percent annually, while biodiesel production increased 38 percent annually.Footnote 54 In Canada, energy generated from biomass represents only a small portion of the annual renewable energy generation and accounts for only a small proportion of energy consumption. Table 8 illustrates this, as approximately 126 petajoules (PJ) of energy was generated from biomass/biogas in 2008, representing only eight percent of the renewable energy generation. Most of the bioenergy produced is heat (84 PJ or 67 percent) and then electricity (37 PJ or 29 percent); only a small proportion (6 PJ or 4.8 percent) is liquid fuel.

Table 8: Annual Renewable Energy Generation in Canada, 2008
Renewable type Estimated generation (PJ) Avoided CO2e emissions
Electric Heat (Thermal) Liquid
Fuel
Total % total Kt % total
Large hydro 1,301 0 0 1,301 86% 130,320 88%
Small hydro 65 0 0 65 4% 6,542 4%
Wind 24 0 0 24 2% 2,408 2%
Biomass/biogas 37 84 6 126 8% 8,389 6%
Total 1,427 84 6 1,517 100% 148,606 100%

PJ = Petajoules; Kt = kilo tonnes; CO2e = carbon dioxide equivalent
Source: Nyboer, J., & Groves, S. (2010). A Review of Renewable Energy in Canada, 2008. Burnaby, BC: Canadian Industrial Energy End-use Data and Analysis Centre (CIEEDAC). Retrieved from http://www.cieedac.sfu.ca/media/publications/Renewables%20Report%202010%20Final-1.pdf (p. 11)

This 126 PJ of energy produced from biomass/biogas only represented approximately 1.4 percent of Canada’s estimated total 2008 secondary energy use (8,720 PJ).Footnote 55 Secondary energy use is one of two types of energy use (the other being primary). Secondary use refers to “energy used by final consumers in various sectors of the economy.” Primary use refers to “total requirements for all users of energy,” including secondary use, energy required to transform and transport energy, and energy used in industrial production processes. Canadian secondary energy use, in 2007, represented 69 percent of Canada’s primary energy use of 12,786 PJ.Footnote 56

Canada currently has significant potential for developing its existing biomass supply and, as demonstrated above, significant potential for expansion of bioenergy to meet energy demands. Existing forestry and agriculture residues and municipal wastes represent an estimated 2,210 PJ of energy potential (Table 9). The above 126 PJ of energy generated from biomass therefore represents less than six percent of the amount of biomass available from residues and wastes alone.

Table 9 : Summary of biomass potential in Canada from residues and waste
Sector Energy potential (PJ/yr) Sector % of CDN 2008 energy use*
Forestry 1,540 18%
Agriculture 370 4%
Municipal 300 3%
Total 2,210 25%

Source: Wood, S. M., & Layzell, D. B. (2003). A Canadian biomass inventory: Feedstocks for a bio-based economy
(Final Report No. 5006125). Natural Resources Canada. Retrieved from http://agrienvarchive.ca/bioenergy/download/REAP_NRCAN-inventory-final.pdf, (p. 34).

Furthermore, the above does not include dedicated energy crops grown solely for bioenergy generation. There is some belief that dedicated energy crops provide the greatest opportunities for bioenergy use expansion in Canada.Footnote 57 However, estimates of how biofuels produced from such crops can substitute for gasoline consumption range widely, from 12 percent – 285 percent, with the higher estimates suggesting the possibility of Canada becoming a significant exporter of bioethanol.Footnote 58 Potentially-suitable land for short-rotation plantations of dedicated crops exist primarily in the Prairie provinces, Ontario, and Quebec, with estimates ranging from eight to sixteen million hectares on non-forest land.Footnote 59

However, constraints and challenges exist in developing the potential bioeconomy. These include, for example: costs and challenges associated with transporting biomass that is often bulky and widely dispersed across various regions of Canada; lack of financial capital for developing and producing bioproducts; the economies of scale factors for Canada’s predominantly small companies to operate competitively; and the need for research, development and demonstration to reach a commercial development stage.

Interviewees all believed that the projects funded through the Strategic Priority are needed for developing the bioeconomy in Canada. Stakeholders identified many of the constraints mentioned above, saying that Canadian firms lack the foundational knowledge for developing the bioeconomy and do not have the expertise and/or the resources to undertake the necessary research. Knowledge is required in areas such as locations and properties of biomass, or in key research areas to drive down the costs of producing/transporting biomass/bioenergy. Additionally, private firms cannot afford to undertake the risks involved in such foundational research.

Stakeholders also report that such research is important to government for informing policy decisions related to the bioeconomy. Furthermore, Canada, with its large potential for bioenergy production, is viewed as having the opportunity to become a leader in the bioeconomy.Footnote 60 Stakeholders said that without this involvement, Canada will be viewed as a supplier of biomass to other countries and will not fully benefit from bioenergy and bioproduct development.

How do these activities address the needs of Canadians?

Canada’s energy demands are expected to increase by approximately 11 percent between 2010 and 2020.Footnote 61 Governments are seeking alternatives to non-renewable fossil fuels to meet these growing demands and to achieve GHG emissions reduction. Canada’s Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources recently concluded that, “devel­oping [Canada’s] energy systems in a way that reduces our carbon emissions is the core component of meeting the climate change challenge.”Footnote 62

According to planning documents for the Strategic Priority, the funded projects are expected to assist in developing a bioeconomy that will lead to reduced reliance on fossil fuels and reduced GHG and CAC emissions, as well as improved soil and water quality. This will also provide economic benefits to Canada from the production of bioenergy and co-products, such as feedstocks for manufacturing chemicals and products.Footnote 63 Interviewees spoke of the value-added opportunities for domestic industries, such as those in forestry and agriculture, particularly where these industries are currently experiencing economic challenges. Furthermore, developing the bioeconomy has the potential to boost economic conditions in rural or remote communities, as well as contribute to Canada’s energy security, and provide innovative solutions to waste disposal management. However, GHG reduction potential is dependent on conditions under which biomass is grown, transported, processed and used. There are also concerns regarding the use of biomass for bioenergy production competing with food production and affecting food costs. For example, some studies have found that livestock feed prices rose as a result of increased demand for corn in ethanol production that also increased corn prices.Footnote 64

Economic impact studies undertaken in Canada suggest that bioenergy initiatives have the potential to stimulate both short- and long-term employment opportunities, as well as jobs in other areas of the economy, increase regional economic output, and generate revenue for all levels of government.

4.1.2 Alignment with Government Priorities and NRCan’s Strategic Objectives

Evaluation question Methodologies Assessment
2. Is the Sub-sub Activity consistent with government priorities and NRCan’s strategic objectives? Document review; key informant interviews Based on the evaluation findings, the Sub-sub Activity is consistent with both federal government priorities and NRCan’s strategic objectives.

Summary: The Strategic Priority funds R&D projects with the objective of reducing fossil fuel energy consumption, reducing GHG and other emissions, diversifying the energy supply, and developing a bio-based economy. These are consistent with Canada’s commitments for climate change, for delivering on Canada’s Economic Action Plan, and for achieving the four components of Canada’s Renewable Fuels Strategy, and Canada’s Renewal Fuels Regulations that took effect December 15, 2010. Initiatives that facilitate the development of the bioeconomy within Canada and lead to decreased reliance on non-renewable energy sources and reduced GHG and other pollutants align well with NRCan’s strategic outcome to be a world leader on environmental responsibility in the development and use of natural resources.

Do the objectives of the Strategic Priority align with federal government priorities?

Canada has been funding initiatives in the area of bioenergy for many years through programs such as the National Biomass Ethanol Program, the Ethanol Expansion Program (EEP), the ecoENERGY for Biofuels Initiative, and the Innovation Roadmap on Bio-Based Feedstocks, Fuels and Industrial Products. These programs and the projects undertaken through the Sustainable Bioenergy Strategic Priority, illustrate the priority Canada places on bioenergy.

The objectives of the Strategic Priority for reducing fossil fuel energy consumption, reducing GHG and other emissions, diversifying the energy supply, and developing a bio-based economy are consistent with and supportive of Canada’s environmental and economic priorities. For example, efforts to reduce GHG emissions align with Canada’s commitment for, “climate change that achieves real environmental and economic benefits for all Canadians.”Footnote 65 Canada’s current commitment is to reduce GHG emissions at 2005 levels by 17 percent, by 2020. Program plans also state that the expected outcomes align with Canada’s goals for advancing transformative energy.

According to NRCan’s 2009–10 Departmental Performance Report, the Strategic Priority activities assist in delivering on Canada’s Economic Action Plan. Specifically, it contributes towards the expected results of promoting forest innovation and investment and the Clean Energy Fund.Footnote 66

The R&D conducted through the Strategic Priority projects are expected to contribute to knowledge for developing and applying new applications, technologies, and systems for the production of bioenergy, biofuels, and value-added products. A further expected outcome is knowledge to enable policies, standards, and regulations, which will then contribute towards the regulation aspect of the first component of the Renewable Fuels Strategy (increasing the retail availability of renewable fuels through regulation). Furthermore, initiatives that help develop the bioenergy industry, such as those undertaken through the Strategic Priority, should assist in achieving Canada’s Renewable Fuels Regulations (which took effect December 15, 2010) requiring five percent average renewable fuel content in gasoline.Footnote 67

Interviewees believe that the Strategic Priority objectives align well with federal government priorities for bioenergy and for the environment by: providing alternatives to fossil fuels; providing potential for reduced GHG and CAC emissions; providing opportunities for economic development and diversification, particularly with respect to rural development; and providing economic stimuli for the forestry and agricultural industries.

Do the objectives of the Strategic Priority align with departmental strategic outcomes?

The goals of the Strategic Priority contribute to, and align with NRCan’s Strategic Outcome 2: Environmental Responsibility. The goal of this strategic outcome is for Canada to be a world leader on environmental responsibility in the development and use of natural resources.Footnote 68 As a component of NRCan’s Program Activity 2.1: Clean Energy, this Strategic Priority also contributes to the expected results of, “increased energy efficiency, increased production of low-emission energy, and reduced environmental impacts associated with energy production and use.”Footnote 69

Initiatives to decrease reliance on non-renewable energy sources and reduce GHG and other pollutants align well with this strategic outcome. Furthermore, as discussed earlier, Canada is viewed as having the ability to become a world leader in the bioeconomy, given our potential biomass supplies. However, without seizing such opportunities, Canada could become just a supplier of biomass to other countries. Maintaining bioenergy production all along the value chain within the country will ensure that the economic benefits are accrued within Canada. This will also contribute to Canada maintaining control for ensuring that the country’s natural resources are developed and used in an environmentally responsible manner. Furthermore, initiatives that encourage Canada’s technology industries to grow and prosper will also assist in developing and retaining the expertise and knowledge base to optimally utilize our natural resources.

4.1.3 Legitimate, Appropriate, and Necessary Federal Role

Evaluation question Methodologies Assessment
3. Is there a legitimate, appropriate, and necessary role for the federal government in the Sub-sub Activity? Document review; literature review; key informant interviews; survey of project leaders; case studies There is a legitimate and necessary role for federal government involvement in the Sub-sub Activity.

Summary: Several federal Acts provide the authority for federal involvement in the type of activities funded through the Strategic Priority: Section 21 of the Energy Efficiency Act and Section 6 of the Natural Resources Act. The funded R&D projects are considered necessary to fill knowledge gaps and contribute research that Canadian firms are not conducting on their own. Canadian firms are predominantly small (fewer than 50 employees) and hesitant to divert large amounts of capital into researching and developing new bioproducts. Federal investment in this area can assist Canada in becoming a leader in the bioeconomy rather than simply becoming a biomass supplier to other countries.

Is there a necessary role for federal government involvement in the activities conducted under this Strategic Priority?

Legitimacy of the federal government involvement in the activities funded through the Strategic Priority is illustrated through the authority provided in several federal Acts. Specifically, authority is given in two federal Acts.

The Energy Efficiency Act gives the Minister of Natural Resources authority to undertake various activities to promote energy efficiency and alternative energy sources. Specifically, Section 21 provides the Minister the authority to: conduct research and development, demonstrations and studies; publish such research/test results and information; make grants and contributions; and cooperate and enter into agreements with individuals, including federal departments/agencies and provinces.Footnote 70

The Natural Resources Act gives the Minister of Natural Resources authority over Parliament’s jurisdictional matters related to natural resources, which includes energy. Under Section 6, the Minister is given various responsibilities related to the sustainable development of natural resources, including involvement in developing and promoting Canadian scientific technologies.Footnote 71

Federal government involvement in the Strategic Priority activities is considered necessary for several reasons. Key knowledge gaps have been identified in terms of the biomass supply and the conversion process by the industry itself. According to the 2006 Canadian Biomass Innovation Network’s strategic plan, “the development of integrated solutions will involve many stakeholders from the private and public sectors, and will require federal leadership, national collaboration and effective coordination,” while the program “centres on finding technology solutions in the applied R&D space, and advancing successful R&D along the innovation curve through dissemination, and by identifying and reducing barriers to adoption.”Footnote 72

According to Statistics Canada’s Bioproducts Development Survey, the lack of financial capital was the highest rated barrier to bioproduct development.Footnote 73 Given that Canada’s bioproduct companies are predominantly small firms (e.g., 81 percent of 208 identified firms in Canada, in 2009, had less than 50 employees),Footnote 74 this represents a serious barrier.

Interviewees indicated that much of the research undertaken through the funded projects is perceived as involving experienced and knowledgeable federal research scientists exploring foundational and early development aspects of the bioeconomy. Interviewees view this involvement by government as a key aspect of facilitating development of the bioeconomy. Indeed, non-federal project partner interviewees commented that the projects in which they were involved would not have taken place without the federal investment. The survey further confirms this. Of the close to half of the 2009 survey respondents who were involved in cooperative or collaborative arrangements, most identified access to scientific expertise as the reason for these partnerships.Footnote 75 Furthermore, partners said that the federal funding provides legitimacy to projects, illustrating that this is an area the government views as having potential.

Most of the work conducted by provinces and territories in the areas of bioenergy appear to be in the form of establishing renewable fuel and energy standards/regulations, incentives for producing or consuming renewable fuels, or assistance in commercialization aspects. Provincial initiatives related specifically to bioenergy research appear to be relatively uncommon. The federal government seems to be primarily fulfilling this need.

Stakeholders believe that Canada needs to invest in this area to become a leader in the bioeconomy and to ensure capturing the economic benefits all along the value chain rather than becoming a biomass supplier to other countries. Both interviewees and the literature point to initiatives other jurisdictions are taking, indicating that Canada needs to remain competitive in this area. For example, the United States is the world leader in ethanol production,Footnote 76 while the European Union (EU) is the world leader in biodiesel production, Footnote 77 with Member States actively generating heat and electricity from biomass and in co-generation.Footnote 78 The EU is the world leader in biodiesel production, in part, because of the low cost biodiesel resources available from Canada. This serves as an example of how Canada’s bioeconomy may evolve into simply supplying resources to more advanced regions without research and innovation. Interviewees also believe it to be necessary for the federal government to develop and retain the scientific and technical knowledge gained through these activities to contribute to research objectivity and to inform sound and strategic policy development.

4.2 Performance

4.2.1 Achievement of Expected Outcomes (Effectiveness)

Evaluation question Methodologies Assessment
4. To what extent have intended outcomes been achieved as a result of the Sub-sub Activity? Document review; literature review; key informant interviews; survey of project leaders; case studies; data review The evaluation found that the Strategic Priority is making progress particularly in immediate outcomes and, to some extent, in intermediate outcomes.

Summary: The evaluation revealed that the Strategic Priority is making good progress in achieving immediate outcomes. Project activity is highly focused in the areas of increased knowledge and understanding of new and existing biomass resource potential, biofuels, and bioenergy, and new and improved applications for biomass conversion technologies. Projects are generating and disseminating a large number of knowledge products related to biomass resources and conversions technologies in the form of research papers, workshops/conferences, patents, etc.

Projects appear to be making some progress towards intermediate outcomes, although evidence of such progress is more qualitative or anecdotal. While projects are viewed as having good potential for GHG and CAC emissions reduction and other environmental benefits, these are expected to occur in the future. There is also wide belief that significant potential exists for the R&D to contribute towards creation of new value-added opportunities and creation/expansion of existing industries. However, as most projects are conducting basic or applied/bench-scale research, they are not yet at the stage of commercialization.

Are the outputs of the Strategic Priority effectively contributing to increased knowledge and understanding of existing and new biomass resource potential, biofuels, bioenergy, and biorefineries (immediate outcome)? If so, has this yet resulted in an increased sustainable biomass supply (intermediate outcome)?

Project activity is highly focused in this area, at least for the immediate outcome of increased knowledge and understanding of new and existing biomass resource potential, biofuels, and bioenergy. The majority of the projects funded through the Strategic Priority were under the Subprogram Sustainable Feedstock (17 of 32 projects in 2010-11) and Subprogram Biomass Conversion (10 of 32 in 2010-11). Also, two projects under Subprogram 4 received funding. One of those project received wind down funding following NRCan’s Strategic Review cuts in order to fulfill prior international commitments. The second project received funding under ecoETI which allowed for the winding down of activities initiated under T&I R&D. These subprograms also accounted for the majority of funding over the evaluation period: 30 percent for Sustainable Feedstock and 54 percent for Biomass Conversion (see Table 5).

Few projects were conducted to contribute to increased knowledge and understanding of Biorefineries. Subprogram Biorefineries and Bioplexes had only seven funded projects in each of 2006-07 and 2007-08, one project in each of 2008-09 and 2009-10, and none in 2010-11. Furthermore, this is one of the two subprograms cancelled as of the beginning of 2010-11 as a result of the departmental Strategic Review.

Most projects are identified as research projects, either basic and/or applied/bench-scale, with the latter being most common. For example, as indicated in Table 10, 23 of 32 projects (or 74 percent) were identified as applied/bench-scale research in 2010-11.

Table 10: Number of Projects by Type, 2007-08 to 2010-11
Project types 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11
Number of projects
Basic research 11 9 6 7
Applied/bench-scale research 23 19 20 23
Field test n/a n/a 7 8
Pilot scale pre-demonstration test 12 15 12 11
Knowledge generation (e.g., for policy development) n/a n/a 7 9
Demonstration-scale technology developments 6 8 n/a n/a
Technologies deployed n/a 3 n/a n/a
Other n/a n/a 3 3
Total projects 32 34 31 32

Sources: OERD annual reports for 2007–08 to 2008–09; spreadsheets provided by OERD for 2009–10 and 2010–11. n/a = not applicable to that year; also, data is not available for 2006–07.
Note 1: Columns do not sum to total projects; multiple responses possible.
Note 2: Projects are multi-year and would be accounted for in more than one year.

Project leaders also most commonly indicated in annual reporting that their project contributed to the immediate outcome of increased knowledge and understanding of existing and new biomass resource potential, biofuels, bioenergy, and biorefineries; for example, 26 of 32 projects identified this outcome in 2010-11 reporting (Table 11).

Table 11: Projects Contributing to Expected Immediate and Intermediate Outcomes Under Current Logic Model, 2008–09 to 2010–11*
Outcome 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11
Number Description Number of projects contributing
Immediate outcomes (IMO)
IMO1 Increased knowledge and understanding of existing and new biomass resource potential, biofuels, bioenergy, and biorefineries 10 25 26
IMO2 New and improved applications for biomass conversion technologies to bioenergy, biofuels and value-added products 6 10 13
IMO3 Increased knowledge and understanding to assist in the development of enabling policies, standards, and regulations related to sustainable biomass, biofuels, or conversion technologies using biomass 3 12 14
IMO4 Strengthening of networking and/or collaboration among federal departments and agencies, the provinces, industries, universities, and/or international activities 6 19 18
Intermediate outcomes (INO)
INO1 Increased sustainable biomass supply for the production of bioenergy, biofuels, and value-added products 8 9 8
INO2 New/improved technologies/systems using sustainable biomass feedstocks to reduce conventional energy consumption, increase energy efficiency, reduce costs, and/or reduce air emissions 6 4 5
INO3 New/improved standards, regulations, and policies for the sustainable use of biomass feedstocks, for bioenergy, biofuels, and value-added bioproducts, and for conversion technologies using biomass 5 6 4
Total projects 12 31 32

*Includes projects funded through ecoETI for 2008–09 to 2010–11, CEF for 2010–11, and PERD for 2009–10 to 2010–11 (prior to 2009–10, PERD projects reported outcomes under previous logic model).
Source: File review of project annual reports for 2009–10 and 2010–11; OERD annual report for 2008–09.
Note 1: Columns do not sum to total projects; multiple responses possible.
Note 2: Projects are multi-year and would be accounted for in more than one year.

Almost all projects (28 of 31) reported that the R&D resulting from their project contributed to new or enhanced knowledge in the field of study in 2009-10 and 2010-11 (Table 12). Most also indicated that the results could be applied beyond their own studies, reporting that the R&D increased the knowledge of other stakeholders in the field of study (22 and 24 of 31 projects in 2009-10 and 2010-11, respectively), and that the results could be used by other stakeholders for conducting RD&D.

Table 12: Project Progress from Annual Reporting – Use of Results from Project Findings, 2009-10 to 2010-11
R&D conducted led to… 2009–10 2010–11
New or enhanced knowledge in the field of study 28 28
Increased knowledge of other stakeholders in the field of study 22 24
Results used in other internal projects 17 21
Results used by other stakeholders to conduct RD&D 17 18
Results used by industry or others to support technology development or business activities n/a 19
New or enhanced process 13 16
New or enhanced technology 12 15
New or enhanced modelling capacity 12 13
New or enhanced measurement technique 9 8
New or enhanced analytical tool 7 9
Input to published or revised codes and/or standards n/a 8
Total projects 31 32

Sources: File review of project annual reports for 2009–10 and 2010–11.
n/a – not applicable to that year.
Note 1: Columns do not sum to total projects; multiple responses possible.
Note 2: Projects are multi-year and would be accounted for in more than one year.
Note 3: Only 2009-10 and 2010-11 annual reporting templates asked these questions.

Interviewees said that projects are contributing to knowledge and understanding of biomass resources, in terms of the location, quantity, and quality of biomass supplies and of sustainable yield of supplies. Examples given by stakeholders include:

  • AAFC’s Biomass Inventory Mapping and Analysis Tool (BIMAT) enables users to determine the volume and characteristics of biomass available in particular locations across the country. Stakeholders reported that provinces and the private sector are using BIMAT to guide policy and investment decisions. Several of the funded projects were in relation to BIMAT, including three of the case study projects.
  • Contribution towards creation of a regional biomass inventory by identification of biomass sources on the Prairies through analysis of satellite imagery.
  • Research investigating the resource potential of chicken manure as an input in the production of bioproducts.
  • Short-rotation agroforestry involving cultivation of fast-growing trees and plants for specific use as sources of biomass for bioenergy applications.
  • Assessment of sustainability of biomass harvesting practices: such research contributes to increased understanding of existing and new biomass resource potential and assists in formulating realistic expectations for industry development.

Stakeholders also reported on how project outputs increased knowledge and understanding of biofuels, bioenergy, and biorefineries. Examples given include: the collection of baseline environmental data on biofuels to inform decision-making and reduce the environmental footprint of biofuels facilities; the use of biomass as a heat source for greenhouses; assessments of biomass availability and characteristics as well as logistic considerations critical for establishing biorefineries in Canada; and analysis of wood chemistry which could potentially facilitate the production of a variety of bio-based products and services in a biorefinery setting.

The funded projects resulted in many knowledge-related products over the evaluation period (Table 13). These included many national and international project-related presentations (total of 740 over the evaluation period), refereed and peer-reviewed publications (total of 303), or non-refereed/peer-reviewed publications (total of 96) and knowledge transfer products developed/published (total of 216). Project proponents also organized related conferences and workshops (total of 147).

Table 13: Performance Statistics and Dissemination of Results – Knowledge Products, 2006-07 to 2010-11
Performance indicators 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 Total Average per project
Number of each indicator
Presentations at conferences/symposia 104 182 172 149 133 740 22.3
Refereed/peer-reviewed publications 81 73 49 51 49 303 9.1
Knowledge transfer products developed/published 25 102 30 18 41 216 6.5
Conferences/workshops organized 34 45 20 30 18 147 4.4
Non-refereed/peer-reviewed publications 0 0 0 47 49 96 3.1
Internal technical reports 24 52 18 n/a n/a 94 2.7
Total projects 44 32 34 31 32 n/a

Sources: OERD annual reports for 2006–07 to 2008–09; spreadsheets provided by OERD for 2009–10 and 2010–11; file review of project annual reports for 2009-10 and 2010-11.
n/a – not applicable to that year.
Note 1: Columns do not sum to total projects; multiple responses possible.
Note 2: Projects are multi-year and would be accounted for in more than one year.

Project reach also gives an indication of increased knowledge and the penetration of this knowledge into the relevant stakeholder groups. The reach reported by projects in their annual reporting shows a wide range of anticipated beneficiaries from project findings (Table 14). Most frequently, this included government policy and decision-makers, the scientific and academic community, and industry.

Table 14: Project Reach/Beneficiaries, 2009-10 to 2010-11
Reach 2009–10 2010–11
Number of projects
Government policy/decision-makers 22 16
Forest industry, pulp and paper, sawmills 5 6
Producers/landowners 11 11
Scientific/academic community 19 23
Provincial governments 8 7
Biofuel producing companies 2 2
Municipal governments/rural communities 5 4
Investors 4 7
Other bioproduct companies 8 8
Other bioenergy producing companies 3 3
Waste management companies 1 4
Gasification industry 1 2
Fuel cell industry 1 -
Other industry 15 12
Other 9 18
Total projects 31 32

Sources: File review of project annual reports for 2009–10 and 2010–11.
Note 1: Columns do not sum to total projects; multiple responses possible.
Note 2: Projects are multi-year and would be accounted for in more than one year.

While some interviewees believed projects would result in increased supply of sustainable biomass, others said that it is too early to make conclusions for this intermediate outcome, as such results could only be realized in the long-term. This is further illustrated in Table 11, where fewer projects are reported as contributing to the intermediate outcome of increased sustainable biomass supply for the production of bioenergy, biofuels, and value-added products; about one quarter of projects (8 of 32) reported this expected outcome in 2010-11. The logic model identified five to ten years for achievement of intermediate outcomes. However, some projects report that these are already occurring. As was shown in Table 14, about one-third of the projects (11 projects in both 2009-10 and 2010-11) identify producers and/or landowners – those stakeholders that could produce and thereby increase the sustainable biomass supply – as potential beneficiaries of their projects.

Are the funded projects resulting in new and improved applications, technologies, and systems for converting biomass to bioenergy, biofuels, and value-added projects?

New and improved applications for biomass conversion are identified as an immediate outcome, while new and improved technologies and systems are more long-term as an intermediate outcome. About one third to one half of projects report contributing to the immediate outcome of new and improved applications for biomass conversion technologies over the 2008-09 to 2010-11 period (see Table 11). Fewer (e.g., five of 32 in 2010-11) report contributing to the intermediate outcome of new/improved technologies/systems using sustainable biomass feedstocks to reduce conventional energy consumption, increase energy efficiency, reduce costs, and/or reduce air emissions. This further indicated the more foundational research aspects of some of the projects.

Nevertheless, as was shown in Table 12, about half of projects in 2010-11 reported that their projects resulted in a new or enhanced technology or process, and about 40 percent reported these results for 2009-10. About one quarter to 40 percent reported new or enhanced modelling capacity, measurement technique, or analytical tool(s). Additionally, for both of these year ranges, most projects reported achieving at least one of these advancements (25 of 31 projects in 2009-10 and 28 of 32 in 2010-11). Furthermore, in 2010-11, over half of the project leaders (19 of 32) reported that the project results were used by industry or others to support technology development or business activities (see Table 12). Over the evaluation period, projects resulted in issuance of 44 patents and eight licenses

While some projects are conducting basic research or applied/bench-scale research – either in the above areas and/or with regard to biomass resources – others are conducting work at the field test, pilot-scale, or demonstration-scale stage (see Table 10); this would imply that some are working in the area of applications, technologies, or systems. Projects also reported progress along the innovation chain, with most of this as movement from basic to applied/bench-scale research, or from the latter to field tests/pilot-scale demonstrations (Table 15). In 2009-10 and 2010-11, several projects reported moving from pilot-scale to commercial-scale demonstrations (three and four, respectively) and from demonstration to deployment (three in both years).Footnote 79

Table 15: Research Activities Moved Along Innovation Chain, 2007-08 to 2010-11
Movement along innovation chain 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 Totals
Number of projects
Basic research to applied/bench-scale n/a 4 14 12 30
Applied/bench-scale to field tests/pilot-scale n/a 10 8 13 31
Field tests to pilot-scale demonstration n/a n/a 9 7 16
Pilot-scale demos to commercial-scale demos n/a n/a 3 4 7
Pilot-scale to demonstration 8 6 n/a n/a 14
Demonstration to deployment n/a n/a 3 3 6
Total projects 32 34 31 32

Sources: OERD annual reports for 2006–07 to 2008–09; file review of project annual reports for 2009–10 and 2010–11.
n/a = not applicable to that year.
Note 1: Columns do not sum to total projects; multiple responses possible.
Note 2: Projects are multi-year and would be accounted for in more than one year.

Interviewees spoke on how projects with which they are familiar with are resulting in new and improved applications, technologies, and systems. Several examples given are summarized below:

  • biomass torrefactionFootnote 80 to condition biomass so that it can be co-fired with coal for power generation or the production of steel;
  • gasification to produce biogas or synthetic gas (“syngas”) from biomass, with research in the areas of gas cleanup, moisture content, feedstock feeding systems, and management of feedstock quality;
  • research revolving around feedstocks, storage, and processing of bio-oil produced through the pyrolysis process;
  • cost evaluation of various approaches to purifying biogas, with the intent of choosing the best approach for increasing the production of methane and extracting the maximum amount of biogas from biomass sources;
  • development of a mobile biomass combustion unit with a Canadian firm reportedly currently in talks to plan for commercial implementation of the mobile combustion unit as well as a biomass harvesting device (the “BioBaler”) with units presently being sold in Europe.

Another sign of achievement in R&D is where time and resources expended lead to a patentable idea or product. Over the evaluation period, projects resulted in issuance of 44 patents and eight licenses (Table 16).

Table 16: Performance Statistics and Dissemination of Results – Technical/Applications Products, 2006-07 to 2010-11
Performance indicators 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 Total Average
Number of each indicator
Patents issued 10 13 5 5 11 44 1.3
Total active patents/patents becoming active - 15 13 1 2 31 0.9
Licences issued - 1 1 3 3 8 0.2
Licence revenues received - - 2 n/a n/a 2 0.1
Total projects 44 32 34 31 32 33.2

Sources: OERD annual reports for 2006–07 to 2008–09; spreadsheets provided by OERD for 2009–10 and 2010–11; file review of project annual reports for 2009-10 and 2010-11.
n/a – not applicable to that year.
Note 1: Columns do not sum to total projects; multiple responses possible.
Note 2: Projects are multi-year and would be accounted for in more than one year.

What knowledge and understanding have the Strategic Priority activities generated for assisting in developing relevant policies, standards, and regulations? How does this knowledge assist in this area?

Project proponents widely believe that their projects are contributing to this immediate outcome in that the knowledge created is of value for developing relevant policies. As illustrated in Table 17, close to half or more of project leaders reported that their project generates knowledge products of value to policy. Additionally, close to half the projects reported knowledge generated specifically to support policy decision-making for 2008-09.

Table 17: Projects Contributing to Policy – Annual Reports, 2008-09 to 2010-11
Contributions 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11
Number of projects
S&T knowledge products of value to policy (learning) 21 13 18
S&T knowledge products produced specifically to support policy decision-making 15 6 7
New/modified policies and regulations based on S&T knowledge products 3 6 4
Total projects 34 31 32

Sources: OERD annual report for 2008–09; spreadsheets provided by OERD for 2009–10 and 2010–11. Questions were not asked in 2006-07 and 2007-08 reporting templates.
Note 1: Columns do not sum to total projects; multiple responses possible.
Note 2: Projects are multi-year and would be accounted for in more than one year.

Interviewees said that designing sound policy and regulations require a good understanding of Canada’s sustainable biomass resources, as well as the economic viability of particular activities and their GHG or CAC emissions reduction potential. Project findings may also contribute to ensuring that government bioenergy-related programs and policies are designed in a manner to achieve maximum environmental benefits. Several examples given were: research that involved designing biofuel facilities to minimize environmental footprints; estimation of baseline environmental data for biofuels; or refinements to the BIMAT that would contribute to determining GHG implications of commercial operations utilizing biomass.

Case studies further revealed specific examples of how the R&D is contributing to developing policies, standards, and regulations.

  • Two related projects add to the functionality of BIMAT by expanding inventories (livestock straw and canola chaff). Continued refinement and improvement of the BIMAT tool can contribute to fuel mandates, emissions regulations, incentive programs for more refineries, and regulation of biomass feedstocks to prevent over-harvesting.
  • In another BIMAT-related project, the GIS-based Inventory and Analysis of Forest Biomass project, BIMAT and the Biomass Value Simulator provided policy-makers and regulators with important and quickly accessible information about regional sustainable biomass supply and the potential economic impacts of using this biomass as an energy source.
  • Economic modelling undertaken in the project – Developing Short-Rotation Plantation/Agroforestry Systems for Bioenergy Generation in Canada – has informed the departmental perspectives for climate change discussions and influence the direction of short-rotation bioenergy research at NRCan–CFS.
  • The Replacement of Fossil Fuels Used in Greenhouses with Energy from Biomass Residues project has led to requests for consultations from provincial governments and industry in the area of regulations. Examples include providing emissions data to Ontario and British Columbia for emissions regulations development, as well as advising the BC Greenhouse Growers’ Association on the potential impact of new emissions regulations implemented in Vancouver.

Have new policies, standards and regulations resulted from these Strategic Priority activities, either directly or indirectly? If yes, how has this contributed to sustainable use of biomass feedstocks and biomass conversion?

While this is an intermediate outcome with expectations of achievement in five to ten years, several projects report that the knowledge gained has translated into new or modified policies and regulations, with three to six projects indicating this outcome for 2008-09 to 2010-11. Many interviewees believed that the funded projects had, or will directly or indirectly influence new policies, standards, and regulations. Others said that the information gained has the potential to influence future policies and regulations. Stakeholders reported on how project researchers were consulted for bioenergy policy development at the federal level.

  • Several interviewees said that they have been involved in the development of Canada’s Renewable Fuel Strategy (RFS) through assessing the feasibility of the renewable fuel mandates required by the RFS (presently five percent for ethanol and two percent for biodiesel). Although respondents did not explicitly link their involvement in the RFS to research funded through the Strategic Priority, participation in such funded projects and activities is viewed as increasing researchers’ capacity for contributing to such initiatives through the knowledge and expertise gained.
  • Funded research related to biomass feedstocks led the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec to recognize energy crops as agricultural crops, thereby enabling producers to obtain crop insurance.
  • Members of the Canadian Biomass Information Network have worked with industry on the development of American Society for Testing and Materials standards for pyrolysis oil.
  • Projects have fed into standards relating to the performance evaluation of residential wood heating appliances (with the Canadian Standards Association and solid biofuel standardization (with the International Standards Organization), and are expected to contribute to the development of standards for bio-methane obtained via gasification (with the Canadian Gas Association).

How have the Strategic Priority activities contributed to strengthened networking and/or collaboration among Canadian stakeholders (federal departments and agencies, provinces/territories, universities, industry)?

Partnerships and collaborations are a demonstrated area of achievement for the Strategic Priority. NRCan took a variety of steps to ensure that collaborations and partnerships are an integral component of the Strategic Priority in terms of both governance and delivery. Other relevant federal departments and agencies are included in the planning and decision-making process through the governance committees and the Canadian Biomass Information Network, as well as in the research through projects funded and partnerships formed. This assists in the sharing of expertise and knowledge across disciplines while reducing the possibility of duplication of effort across departments/agencies. To facilitate this process, the Canadian Biomass Innovation Network (CBIN) has established a web site to serve as a forum for discussion and dissemination of results. Several interviewees credited the CBIN with improving coordination and information sharing, providing opportunities for partnership development and reducing duplication of work.

As illustrated in Table 18, projects are led by a federal government department/agency; therefore, most have an intramural component to them (28 of 31 projects in 2009–10, and 29 of 32 in 2010–11). Use of partner facilities or access to other research sites may comprise a component of the partner contributions. Approximately half of the projects (16 of 32) in 2010–11 had an extramural component, and 10 were conducted extramurally in 2009-10.

Table 18: Number of Intramural and/or Extramural Projects, 2009-10 to 2010-11
Projects 2009–10 2010–11
Number of projects
Intramural 28 29
Extramural 10 16
Total projects 31 32

Sources: Spreadsheets provided by OERD for 2009–10 and 2010–11.
Note 1: Columns do not sum to total projects; multiple responses possible.
Note 2: Projects are multi-year and would be accounted for in more than one year.

Stakeholders were generally satisfied with their partnerships. Interviewed federal stakeholders, project leader survey respondents, and project partner respondents – all most frequently identified the sharing of ideas and knowledge as a benefit of the partnerships. Interviewees believe that the partnerships and collaborative efforts developed through these projects are a strong feature of their success and described a range of other benefits, such as:

  • additional funding and in-kind resources acquired through partnerships;
  • increased human resource capacity;
  • increased credibility associated with funding decisions, which facilitates the process of acquiring additional funding from partners;
  • opportunities for future collaboration in bioenergy-related research;
  • increased likelihood that research will address knowledge gaps for the end user; and
  • contributing to Canada’s strong performance in research in this area.

Project leaders and partners report that the collaboration provided them with access to expertise they would not otherwise have had. This is further confirmed by Statistics Canada’s Bioproducts Development Survey, where bioproduct companies involved in partnerships gave access to outside scientific expertise as the main reason for these collaborations, followed by conducting R&D.Footnote 81

Most projects have some type of partner. Only five of 31 (16 percent) in 2009–10, and three of 32 (10 percent) in 2010–11, have no partner (Table 19). Many projects have multiple partners; close to half of the projects report five partners or more (15 in 2009–10 and 16 in 2010–11), and over one-quarter (8 in 2009–10 and 9 in 2010–11) have 10 or more partners.

Table 19: Projects’ Number of Partners 2009-10 to 2010-11
Number of partners 2009–10 2010–11
Number of Projects
None 5 3
1–2 9 6
3–4 2 6
5–6 4 4
7–9 3 3
10 or more 8 9
Total projects 31 32

Sources: Spreadsheets provided by OERD for 2009–10 and 2010–11.
Note: Projects are multi-year and would be accounted for in more than one year.

Partners vary widely and include governments, universities, research organizations, producer groups and private industry. According to the project leader survey, private industry is highly involved in projects. Specific examples of partners from the project leader survey include:

  • federal government departments/agencies – AAFC; Human Resources and Skills Development Canada; Canadian Space Agency; NSERC;
  • provincial governments – Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; Manitoba Conservation; BC Ministry of Agriculture; Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources; Government of Alberta;
  • municipal governments – City of Prince George; City of Toronto;
  • universities – University of Guelph; University of British Columbia; University of Saskatchewan; Carleton University; McGill University;
  • producer organizations/greenhouses – Poplar Council of Canada; Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers; BC Greenhouse Growers’ Association; Greenhouse Canada; Pulse Canada;
  • research organizations/private industry – FPInnovations; Biolin Research Inc.; Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission; Institut de recherche en biologie végétale; Ensyn Corporation; Abritech Inc.; Lignol; Iogen Corporation; Enerkem; KMW Energy Inc.; General Electric; and
  • utilities – Manitoba Hydro; Ontario Power Generation.

One of the partners for the case study project – Developing Short-Rotation Plantation/Agroforestry Systems for Bioenergy Generation in Canada – is the Institut de recherche en biologie végétale (IRBV). The IRBV provided the project with access to the Botanical Garden of Montreal and a network of experimental sites throughout Quebec for project-related testing and research. Another case study project – Replacement of Fossil Fuels Used in Greenhouses with Energy from Biomass Residues – involved developing relationships with about 15 greenhouses that then provided the project with access to their facilities for project testing on use of biomass as a renewable energy source for greenhouses.

As illustrated in Table 20, projects reported a variety of activities indicative of their partnerships and collaborations. In particular, projects reported a large number of domestic partners, ranging from a low of 174 partners, in 2010-11, to a high of 367 partners, in 2007-08, or an average of six and 11 partners per project, respectively. As a result of their partnerships, some projects have entered into formal collaborations (23 to 66 per year over the evaluation period), and/or Memoranda of Understanding (two to 25 per year), and/or signed agreements (13 to 38 per year). Some of these partnerships also resulted in client reports (30 to 69 per year).

As also illustrated in Table 20, projects reported other collaborative efforts that would facilitate sharing of information between stakeholders, such as hosting students/research fellows (25 to 84 per year) and guest workers (six to 17 per year), receiving delegations (nine to 55 per year), or participating as adjunct professors (10 to 34 per year), or in executive positions in professional bodies (five to 13 per year).

Table 20: Performance Statistics and Dissemination of Results – Partnerships and Collaborations, 2006-07 to 2010-11
Performance Indicators 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 Total*
Number of each Indicator
Domestic partners involved in projects n/a 367 234 279 174 -
International partners involved in projects n/a 37 41 52 39 -
Active formal collaborations 41 66 47 28 23 -
Active Memorandum of Understanding 2 14 25 24 22 -
Agreements signed 19 38 38 22 13 -
Client reports 30 38 35 69 30 202
Students, research fellows 25 84 45 47 60 -
Adjunct professorships 10 20 30 26 34 -
Delegations received 9 39 20 55 33 156
Positions in international editorial boards 16 12 18 10 14 -
Guest workers including industrial staff, international scientists, etc. 7 16 6 17 8 54
Executive positions held in professional societies 7 13 13 5 6 -
Total projects 44 32 34 31 32

Sources: OERD annual reports for 2006–07 to 2008–09; spreadsheets provided by OERD for 2009–10 and 2010–11; file review of project annual reports for 2009-10 and 2010-11.
n/a – not applicable to that year.
*Indicators that could overlap from one year to the next are not totalled to avoid double counting.
Note 1: Columns do not sum to total projects; multiple responses possible.
ote 2: Projects are multi-year and would be accounted for in more than one year.

Some interviewees, including project partners, believed that their projects could not have gone forward, or could have had a reduced scope without the partnerships. Partners bring not only their own contributions, either as cash or in-kind, but also their networks and contacts that can be valuable for project success. For example, provincial partners in the case study project – Replacement of Fossil Fuels Used in Greenhouses with Energy from Biomass Residues – contributed to the project through facilitating contacts and collaborations, including drawing upon their previously established relationships in sourcing biomass fuel potentials.

One area of concern expressed by interviewees is the impact that funding reductions is having, or will have on collaborations. There are concerns that reduced funding to the Strategic Priority – as well as the general budgetary constraints experienced by federal departments/agencies – is reducing participation and input from other federal departments/agencies and, therefore, reducing the benefits that accrue from such partnerships. Several federal stakeholders noted that other federal departments/agencies would have no vested interest in continued participating in the governance component of the Strategic Priority, such as the S&T Portfolio Committee, if none of their staff received project funding.

How have the Strategic Priority activities contributed to strengthened networking and/or collaboration between Canada and international partners? What has been the benefit of these international initiatives for Canada?

While domestic partnerships are the norm, some projects may also involve international partners or some type of collaboration. Projects reported from 37 to 52 international partners over the 2007-08 to 2010-11 period (see Table 20). International networking/collaborations are also facilitated by project team member participation in activities such as positions in international editorial boards (range of 10 to 18 positions over the evaluation period) or hosting guest workers (range of six to 17 workers over the evaluation period, some of whom may be international scientists).

Furthermore, it would be expected that some of the presentations, workshops, and delegations, reported in Table 13, would involve an international component. For example, over half of project leader survey respondents identified making presentations at international fora as a result of their project (eight of 14 respondents); additionally, six respondents reported sharing information with international agencies, and five said that they were involved in international collaborations.

Interviewees said that funded projects led either directly or indirectly to collaboration and/or information exchanges with stakeholders from a wide range of countries, such as the US, Mexico, Germany, Sweden, China, India, Japan, Korea, and Australia. Interviewees and documents reviewed for the evaluation also gave examples of specific international initiatives in which Canada is involved, most notably tasks of the International Energy Agency (IEA). Participation in the IEA may involve presentations at meetings/workshops, discussions and information exchanges with other researchers, involvement in task planning, or contribution to international handbooks (e.g., an international handbook of pellets). Interviewees and project reporting referred to Canada’s participation in particular tasks within IEA Bioenergy, such as: short-rotation bioenergy crops; biomass combustion and cofiring, gasification, commercializing liquid biofuels from biomass; and biomass feedstocks for energy markets.

Other examples of involvement in international initiatives include the Global Bioenergy Partnership, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the North America Forest Commission, the UN Framework Convention on Biological Diversity, the USDA Forest Service, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the North American Energy Working Group. These international collaborations may be specifically due to the project involvement or a general result of the federal researchers’ areas of expertise.

Several specific examples of international collaborations or information exchanges revealed through the evaluation include the following:

  • ecoETI-funded work related to sustainability criteria for plantation crops is contributing to the development of sustainability criteria in emerging EU regulations on sustainability of biomass for use in producing bio-energy.
  • Presentation of the results from a project on replacing fossil fuels in greenhouses with biomass to IEA energy task members led to additional opportunities for collaboration. Furthermore, representatives from other countries traveled to Canada to observe the work and meet with growers and provincial partners.
  • NRCan-funded research related to the utility of the BioBaler in biomass harvesting involved direct collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service as well as the University of Minnesota.
  • The case study project – GIS-Based Inventory and Analysis of Forest Biomass – benefited from collaborations with a United States university through support in receiving willow cuttings and expertise on willow trees.

Interviewees said that a variety of benefits stemmed from opportunities for networking and collaboration between Canada and its international partners. Benefits include:

  • providing opportunities to access and learn of new concepts, methodologies, and technologies;
  • accelerating work in particular areas, and reducing duplication resulting from similar work being undertaken in multiple jurisdictions;
  • informing domestic policy and contributing to developing/setting international standards/policies;
  • providing Canada’s perspective to other countries;
  • strengthening Canada’s credibility and contributing to recognition of Canada as a leader in the developing bioeconomy; and
  • facilitating international trade and marketing Canadian bioproducts to other countries.

Several interviewees believe that Canada should be doing more to strengthen networking and collaboration with other countries. The lack of resources and travel restrictions are also identified as an inhibiting factor in project collaborations/partnerships.Footnote 82 Some interviewees spoke of the need to increase coordination and collaboration with the United States, although a few argued that this required increased efforts on both sides of the border.

How will the various projects conducted under this Strategic Priority contribute to reduced GHG and CAC emissions? Is there any evidence that this is yet occurring?

Reduced GHG emissions from funded projects are expected to occur at some point through replacement of fossil fuels with bioenergy and biofuels, reduced energy consumption by adoption of improved biotechnologies, and biogas generation from methane-producing wastes, such as livestock manure and municipal solid wastes.Footnote 83 Similarly, these should lead to reduced CAC emissions and other environmental benefits such as improved soil and water quality. The only expected outcome articulated in the Strategic Priority’s logic model is Intermediate Outcome 2 of new/improved technologies using sustainable biomass feedstocks. This is expected to provide a range of benefits, including reducing conventional energy consumption, increasing energy efficiency, reducing costs, and/or reducing air emissions.

Furthermore, environmental benefits are not identified as an expected final outcome, although this would be implied in the achievement of “development of the technologies, systems, knowledge and policies to support the development of a sustainable Canadian bioeconomy” given that much of the literature on a sustainable bioeconomy is predicated on the potential for reduced emissions.

Nevertheless, project annual reports and planning documents report on GHG and CAC emissions reduction potential. Project assessment criteria also require that proposals articulate potential environmental benefits including how they will reduce air pollutants and GHG.Footnote 84

The evaluation did not find any actual analysis or estimation of achieved or expected GHG or CAC emissions reduction either for the Strategic Priority, overall, or on a project basis. One 2006 planning document gave a conservative estimate of GHG emissions of at least 30 Mt of carbon dioxide equivalents by 2025 if the R&D from the PERD and T&I R&D initiatives projects planned, at that time, was successful and led to new technologies.Footnote 85 Reporting templates do not require projects to estimate or report on environmental benefits. Case studies conducted for the evaluation provide perhaps the best illustration of expected environmental benefits, as summarized below, for each of the five case studies. Several of these do make some estimates of potential impact on GHG/CAC emissions.

  • Further Development of the Biomass Inventory and Mapping Analysis Tool (BIMAT) andImproved Biomass Feedstock Inventory and Sustainability Analysis to Link BIMAT and RETScreen and International Feedstock Supply Models—Phase II – BIMAT assists in locating production of a sustainable supply of biomass away from areas where there is a risk of soil erosion and degradation. Supply chain cost analysis is reported to contribute towards better measures of GHG costs associated with growing, harvesting, and transporting biomass, making it easier to calculate the environmental costs and benefits of bioenergy projects.
  • GIS-Based Inventory and Analysis of Forest Biomass – This project contributes towards knowledge of the physical and chemical attributes of available biomass. Use of forestry residues that might otherwise be sent to landfills or burned as a biomass source for energy production could potentially contribute to reduced greenhouse gas and criteria air contaminant emissions.
  • Developing Short-Rotation Plantation/Agroforestry Systems for Bioenergy Generation in Canada –Large-scale adoption of short-rotation plantations and conversion of the biomass into biofuels is estimated to have the potential of reducing GHG emissions by 18 million tonnes per year, which is equivalent to about 15 percent of the federal government objective. Replacement of annual crops with perennial woody crops also has the potential to reduce soil erosion and improve water quality.
  • Technologies Beyond Anaerobic Digestion, Gasification and Pyrolysis for bio-based high-value production from secondary biomass feedstock – Diverting wastes to use for producing energy will reduce methane production from landfills, and the biofuels produced will substitute for non-renewable fossil fuels. Conservative estimates suggest that the municipal sector could reduce its GHG emissions by 10 million tons of CO2 if only 30 percent of the organic component of total solid waste were treated with anaerobic digestion. An additional estimated four million tons of CO2 reduction could be achieved annually if anaerobic digestion were used to treat some of the primary and secondary sludge produced by the pulp and paper sector.
  • Replacement of Fossil Fuels Used in Greenhouses with Energy from Biomass Residues – Switching from natural gas to biomass fuels for heating greenhouses is expected to have a positive environmental impact through reduced GHG and CAC emissions. The project’s development of an improved energy management and control system resulted in an estimated 20 percent reduction of CAC emissions. Furthermore, the system increases efficiency by increasing fuel utilization by 25 percent, reducing system cycling time, and reducing particulates to a level that meets requirements set by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

A large number of research studies report that replacing fossil fuels with biomass in the production of heat, electricity, transportation fuels, and a variety of industrial products is expected to generate net reductions in GHG emissions. However, a variety of factors are known to influence the GHG reduction potential associated with bioenergy. For example, ethanol generated using lignocellulosic feedstocks, such as switchgrass, is known to have greater potential to reduce GHG emissions than ethanol produced using wheat or corn.Footnote 86

Most interviewees believed that the projects funded under the Strategic Priority had significant potential to reduce GHG and CAC emissions in Canada, although respondents generally found it difficult to estimate potential emissions reduction stemming from funded projects and activities.

Several interviewees observed that the GHG/CAC reduction potential of funded projects and activities was dependent on external factors, such as the uptake of new technologies, the prices of fossil fuels, social acceptance of bioenergy, and government policies (pricing of carbon, renewable mandates for transportation fuels, etc.). For example, Manitoba is currently planning to phase out the use of coal for space and water heating by January 1, 2014 as part of a provincial effort to reduce GHGs.Footnote 87 Flax shive, as a substitute for coal, has the potential to assist users of coal for heat and energy production, such as Hutterite colonies, in making this transition; one Hutterite colony has successfully tested and transitioned to flax shive.

Some stakeholders noted that the funded projects and activities were still at the foundational stages, and GHG reduction potential at the commercialization stage could not be reliably predicted. For the same reason, most interviewees believed funded projects required time to contribute to significant GHG and CAC reductions. A few pointed out that significant reductions would require projects and activities to be not only commercialized, but also to have reached a significant level of market acceptance. Since most funded projects and activities have not yet achieved this outcome, these large-scale reductions are likely to be seen only in the longer-term. Almost all project leader survey respondents believe either that GHG reductions are already occurring as a result of their project (four of 14 respondents), or that the potential for such reductions is very good (seven of 14 respondents) or good (two of 14 respondents).

How will the various projects conducted under this Strategic Priority contribute to the creation of new industries? Is there any evidence that this is yet occurring?

Planning documents for the Strategic Priority identify creation of new industries as expected benefits, although these are described as long-term benefits that may not be achieved until 2020-2025.Footnote 88 The literature review revealed how initiatives aimed at developing Canada’s bioeconomy could generate significant economic benefits for Canadians, including new industries. Benefits expected from new industry and expansion of existing industries include: job and income creation (particularly in rural areas); improved trade balance resulting from reduced fossil fuel imports and the ability to export more of the fossil fuels produced in Canada; opportunities for diversification in the agricultural and forest industries; and reduced costs and creation of revenue streams associated with waste management. For example, a recent study by the Pembina Institute estimates that establishing a wood pellet industry in the Province of Ontario would create 3,569 full-time jobs – including 3,249 in forest-dependent communities – and would add $590 million to Ontario’s GDP.Footnote 89

Most interviewees saw significant potential for creation of new industries and value-added opportunities in the funded projects and activities. They described a range of emerging opportunities in a variety of industries, including among others: forestry; agriculture; energy; automobile manufacturing (e.g., the incorporation of bio-based materials); waste management and disposal; and the chemical industry. A few stakeholders, however, observed that the funded projects and activities were either not intended to stimulate the creation of new industries and value-added products, or that these outcomes were not among the immediate goals of the Strategic Priority. These interviewees believed that at least some areas within the Strategic Priority conducted research typically required early in the process of technological development, before commercialization was likely to occur; nonetheless, they recognized that this research would ultimately be critical in guiding private investment.

Interviewed partners also reported positively on the potential for developing new companies or expanding existing companies. Several specific examples given of how this is already occurring are provided below.

  • The earlier example of using flax shive as a substitute for coal and natural gas has opened up new opportunities to the company supplying the flax shive. Flax shive is a major by-product in flax processing that is undertaken mainly for the fibre; flax plants are 20 percent fibre and 80 percent shive. The company reported an increase in the value of shive as greater use of biofuels developed. Research such as this has given the company incentives to look for other bioproducts for their materials.
  • Research on conversion technologies for processing chicken manure into useful bioproducts, including fuel, fertilizer, and chemicals for pharmaceuticals has led to the installation of a biorefinery at a large poultry coop in Nova Scotia by a project partner, with potential for expanding the use of the technology to poultry operations in Southwestern Ontario and the United States.
  • A Quebec firm has commercialized a vegetal and woody biomass harvester and is selling the units in Europe.

Steps are taken in project reporting to track how the project results will be used at project completion to contribute towards a continuum along the R&D to commercialization phase. Once completed, projects must report on follow-up steps, such as whether the project will lead to next stage R&D, or field trials, or pilot scale tests. Examples of follow-up steps are provided in the case study descriptions in Appendix A.

Beyond the impact of the projects themselves, many, if not most, interviewees believed that commercialization of biomass and related products and technologies is currently occurring in Canada. It was observed that first-generation technologies are already well-established, and some interviewees noted that many pulp and paper facilities already act as biorefineries. Some referred to emerging firms in the bioeconomy that are beginning to commercialize their products, while others noted the integration of related technologies in existing sectors (e.g., the use of biomass in the greenhouse sector).

4.2.2 Unintended Outcomes

Evaluation question Methodologies Assessment
5. Have there been any unintended (positive or negative) outcomes? Key informant interviews; survey of project leaders; data review The evaluation found few unintended results.

Summary: Few unintended outcomes were revealed through the evaluation. The main unintended outcome is that which would occur as a result of the cancellation of Subprograms 3 and 4. Any other unintended outcomes were challenges projects may have experienced due to external factors beyond their control. For example, projects lost some leveraged funds from partners due to the recent economic recession.

While the evaluation revealed few unintended outcomes, the main one is the impact of the cancellation of Subprograms 3 and 4 as a result of the Department’s Strategic Review effective April 1, 2010. This affected one project in Subprogram 3 and three in Subprogram 4, with all of these funded through PERD. As the current funding cycle for PERD just began in 2009, the projects thus would have operated for one year of the funding cycle prior to their cancellation. A total of $760,000 had been allocated to these projects for 2010-11 to 2012-13.

Several external interviewees expressed concerns over the loss of the R&D in these areas, with Subprogram 3 pertaining to biorefineries and Subprogram 4 to governance, sustainability, and performance measurement. Of the four projects cancelled, one was led by Industry Canada staff, two by Environment Canada staff, and one by NRCan staff. A concern was expressed that this could result in reduced involvement by these partner departments in the governance and coordination components of the Strategic Priority. While these subprograms constituted only a small portion of the Strategic Priority’s total work, it is worth noting that their cancellation was seen by external interviewees to indicate a decline in the overall bioenergy work done by NRCan.

Any other unintended outcomes were due to external factors that affected some projects, as reported in annual reporting, such as the economic downturn that resulted in some partners contributing less than expected, or the decline in the price of oil that reduced the financial attraction to some bioenergy products. For example, the case study project – Replacement of Fossil Fuels Used in Greenhouses with Energy from Biomass Residues – experienced reduced involvement from greenhouse partners in 2010-11 due to lower natural gas prices. Greenhouses thus had less incentive to participate in the project and this led to a lower than expected amount of leverage. Other external factors that affected case study projects included weather factors that affected biomass production and/or harvest, difficulties in finding and recruiting skilled staff, and delays in companion projects that are contributing data/knowledge to the funded project. Project proponents generally believed that they were able to keep on target with their projects despite these challenges.

4.2.3 Economy and Efficiency

Evaluation question Methodologies Assessment
6. Is the Sub-sub Activity the most economic and efficient means of achieving outputs and progress toward outcomes? Key informant interviews; survey of project leaders; data review The Sub-sub Activity appears to be delivered economically and efficiently. Much of this is based on the willingness among the relevant federal departments/agencies for collaboration and partnerships.

Summary: The Strategic Priority has a strong reporting structure and strives to ensure that all projects follow their due diligence. Some of the reporting on results by projects could be used to a greater extent to show progress towards achievement of intermediate and end outcomes.

The Strategic Priority projects leveraged a high level of funding from project partners. Every dollar of program funds invested over the five-year period leveraged (cash and in-kind) $2.91 in investments from all partners, and $2.22 from non-federal partners. Private industry are significant partners, representing over half (55 percent) of partner funding (cash and in-kind) when A-Base funds from federal partners are excluded.
While a variety of other bioenergy-related initiatives exist at both the federal and provincial/territorial level, many of these appear to be more related to providing support at or near the commercialization stage. Without a full assessment of these other initiatives, it is difficult to assess the extent to which the Strategic Priority projects complement or duplicate these initiatives.

While the Strategic Priority has a well-established governance structure, some committees meet irregularly, if at all. The Strategic Priority does not appear to make full use of the available non-federal expertise on the External Advisory Panel.

Are funds allocated to projects with the greatest potential for contributing to the expected outcomes?

The Strategic Priority has developed a stringent process for determining support for projects. The funding process begins with a proposal process. The S&T Portfolio Committee – with representation from AAFC, EC, IC, NRC, NSERC, and NRCan – reviews and assesses proposals for their merit in terms of scope and potential contribution. Potential projects are assessed on a set of common criteria that includes the project’s relevance, risks (barriers to success), and impact (environmental and economic benefits to Canada). Several interviewees elaborated on this, noting that the allocation process is expected to ensure the optimal selection of projects. For example, funded projects and activities are selected based on their capacity to address knowledge gaps identified through consultations with stakeholders, and proposals are reviewed carefully for technical merit and the potential to achieve outcomes of interest, as well as the proponent’s financial status and ability to deliver projects. Several interviewees also asserted that funds were being allocated to those projects most likely to contribute to reduced GHG and CAC emissions, as well as the creation of new industries and value-added products.

Are funds allocated among the subprograms in a manner to contribute demonstrably to each subprogram’s objectives?

The Strategic Priority’s Subprograms 1 and 2 accounted for 84 percent of the funds over the five years of the evaluation period, illustrating a large difference in funding between the subprograms. Subprogram 3 (Biorefineries and Bioplexes), in particular, received only $55,000 in 2008–09, $26,000 in 2009–10, and no funds in 2010–11. R&D activities under Subprogram 3 started with the T&I R&D Initiative and were mainly funded by sunset programs. Governance, sustainability, and performance measurement received a total of $2.3 million for the five-year period. Given the overall funding to Subprograms 3 and 4, their funded projects would not have had the same level of opportunity as the other two subprograms to contribute to their objectives. Furthermore, the last two subprograms were cancelled effective April 1, 2010 as a result of the departmental Strategic Review.

Few interviewees addressed the issue of allocation of funds among the subprograms directly; of these, some were satisfied with the allocations, while others believed that funding was not being allocated optimally. Several concerns were expressed, including that: too many resources were allocated to biofuels-related research; resources were spread too thinly across projects; insufficient resources were available to support research into feedstock development; and more resources should have been allocated to supporting research related to biorefineries. There was no apparent concurrence among these respondents about how resources could have been better allocated.

Does the program encourage investments by partners and other stakeholders?

Partnerships are integral components of many of these projects and are intended to draw on the expertise of the various federal departments and agencies, as well as other external partners, and create synergies to maximize the benefits of investments in bioenergy R&D. This encourages partners’ direct investments in the projects themselves. Therefore, a sign of success of the projects is follow-on investments by partners as well as other stakeholders.

Projects leveraged significant funds from project partners (Table 21). The $33.4 million of program funds allocated over 2006–07 to 2010–11 leveraged a total of $97.2 million from partners, for a total $130.6 million of investments in these projects. Most of the leveraged funds came from non-federal government partners ($74.0 million). Partner investments were cash or in-kind contributions. Excluding A-Base funding from federal departments/agencies, non-federal partner cash investments to projects totalled $52.4 million and in-kind investments, $21.5 million.

Every dollar of program funds invested over the five-year period leveraged $2.91 in investments from all partners, and $2.22 came from non-federal partners. Leveraged amounts from non-federal partners declined successively over the latter three years of the evaluation period, dropping from a high of $24.7 million in 2007-08 to $9.7 million in 2010-11 (see Table 21). This may be a reflection of one of the unintended impacts where several projects reported loss of leveraged funds from partners due to the economic recession and the end of sunsetting programs.

Table 21: Bio-Based Energy Systems Cash and In-kind Contributions by Source, 2006-07 to 2010-11 ($ million)
Source 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 Total
Cash contributions
Program funds $8.20 $8.45 $5.77 $5.12 $5.87 $33.40
Federal funds* $4.31 $3.18 $0.75 $1.14 $1.23 $10.61
Industry $5.34 $16.23 $5.37 $2.29 $2.70 $31.93
University $1.86 $0.75 $0.18 $0.38 $0.16 $3.32
NGOs $0.20 $0.04 $0.61 $0.76 $0.33 $1.94
Provincial government $0.38 $0.24 $1.70 $0.17 $0.43 $2.92
Other $5.25 $3.49 $1.66 $0.69 $1.23 $12.33
Total cash** $25.54 $32.38 $16.04 $10.55 $11.94 $96.45
In-kind contributions
Federal funds* $0.43 $2.45 $2.72 $2.54 $4.46 $12.60
Industry $2.03 $1.77 $1.11 $2.56 $1.63 $9.09
University $1.58 $0.45 $0.22 $0.56 $0.76 $3.57
NGOs $0.08 $0.17 $0.06 $0.03 $0.06 $0.39
Provincial government $0.11 $1.26 $1.22 $1.98 $1.51 $6.07
Other $0.02 $0.35 $0.40 $0.70 $0.93 $2.40
Total in-kind** $4.24 $6.45 $5.72 $8.37 $9.35 $34.12
Grand total** $29.78 $38.83 $21.76 $18.92 $21.29 $130.60
Total leveraged amount $21.58 $30.38 $15.99 $13.80 $15.42 $97.17
Total leveraged/program funds ratio 2.63 3.60 2.77 2.70 2.63 2.91
Non-federal leveraged amount $16.85 $24.74 $12.52 $10.12 $9.73 $73.95
Non-federal leveraged/program funds ratio 2.05 2.93 2.7 1.98 1.66 2.22

Source: NRCan, Annual Reports.
*Includes funds from NRCan (e.g., CanmetENERGY, NRCan-CFS).
**Column totals do not all match; numbers and totals are from NRCan annual reports and likely do not match due to rounding.

Involvement of private industry in these projects could be perceived as an indication that the R&D being conducted is viewed as relevant and as addressing the needs of industry. Industry partners, in fact, provided the largest share of the leveraged support, representing 42 percent of cash and in-kind funds that did not come from program funds, or $41 million over the evaluation period (Table 22). Funding from federal partners (including NRCan) represented close to one quarter (24 percent) of partner funds. Interviewees observed that beyond the direct benefits resulting from the resources provided through the federal investment in the projects, federal involvement brings projects increased credibility which can, in turn, help to leverage funding from other sources.

Table 22: Cash and In-kind Contributions by Partners, 2006-07 to 2010-11
Projects conducted Total funds
($million)
%
Federal funds* $23.21 24%
Industry $41.01 42%
University $6.89 7%
NGOs $2.33 2%
Provincial government $8.99 9%
Other $14.73 15%
Total leveraged amount $97.17 100%

Source: Table 21.
*Includes funds from other NRCan sectors.
Note: Totals do not add due to rounding.

Most interviewees believed that projects and activities funded through the Strategic Priority encouraged parallel or follow-on investments by partners and other stakeholders. Several stakeholders reported on how project results can help investors make informed decisions and reduce uncertainties. One example given is that BIMAT and the Integrated Biomass Supply Analysis and Logistics Model (IBSAL) provided useful information to firms intending to build biorefineries or other facilities, since they could address questions relating to the availability and characteristics of biomass in particular areas, and issues pertaining to logistics.

Some stakeholders reported on how funded projects had led to commercialization of particular technologies or had leveraged additional funding (e.g., the use of flax shive, a chicken manure biorefinery, and the commercialization of the BioBaler). Additionally, the research related to power generation from biomass enabled a partner, Nexterra, to raise additional equity to further develop the technology. The use of biomass as a heat source in greenhouses, as described in the case study project Replacement of Fossil Fuels Used in Greenhouses with Energy from Biomass Residues, has also provided incentives for the private sector to supply biomass, such as through purpose-grown miscanthus or wood residues. A potential market also exists for furnace suppliers for biomass.

Are similar activities being conducted elsewhere within the federal government, by other levels of government or by industry? If yes, do the Strategic Priority activities complement or duplicate these efforts?

Bioenergy and the developing bioeconomy appear to be a cross-sectoral topic of interest, as evidenced in the involvement of a variety of federal departments and agencies in the Bioenergy Strategic Priority, as well as in other bioenergy initiatives (e.g., through committees or project participation). Initiatives related to bioproducts, and most particularly bioenergy, are receiving federal funding both within NRCan and through other federal departments/agencies. Several examples are as follows.Footnote 90

  • AAFC’s Agriculture Bioproducts Innovation (ABIP), which is now ended, funded a variety of networks involving industry, universities and government to encourage increased capacity for, “research, development, technology transfer and commercialization activities in areas such as biofuels, other forms of bioenergy, industrial chemicals, biomaterials and health products.”Footnote 91
  • The National Bioproducts Program, now ended, was a joint initiative between NRCan, NRC and AAFC to encourage collaboration amongst all stakeholders for developing bioproducts that can be commercialized and to do so within a short timeframe (three to five years).Footnote 92
  • ecoENERGY for Biofuels, which is administered by NRCan, supports Canada’s Renewable Fuel Strategy through investments of up to $1.5 billion from 2008 to 2017. Incentives for Canadian production of renewable alternatives to gasoline and/or diesel biofuel are provided.Footnote 93
  • The Sustainable Development Technology Fund (SD Tech Fund) and the NextGen Biofuels Fund (NGBF) are both administered by Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC).Footnote 94 The $590 million SD Tech Fund provides financial assistance to clean technology developers with initiatives in late stage development prior to commercial demonstration. The $500 million NGBF is intended to facilitate biofuel technologies market success by providing financial assistance for commercial-scale demonstration-scale activities.Footnote 95
  • NRCan’s Ethanol Expansion Program (EEP) provides financing to assist in construction of new, or expansion of existing ethanol production facilities in Canada in order to increase its domestic production and use.Footnote 96
  • NRCan-CFS’s Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program (PPGTP) and the Investments in Forest Industry Transformation (IFIT) Program both assist the forest industry in adopting innovative technologies that lead to, among other things, renewable energy production.Footnote 97

Planning documents acknowledge the linkages between the Strategic Priority and other federal programs, identifying that linkages exist with most of the above programs. Identified mitigation steps are for the S&T Portfolio Committee members to consult and collaborate with the responsible parties in each of the programs to ensure coordination of efforts. Given that most of the above programs are administered by NRCan, it would be expected that some leaders and team members of the Strategic Priority projects would have overlapping responsibilities with some of the above programs.

Additionally, many of the above programs are for providing support to initiatives at or near the commercialization stage, while projects funded through the Strategic Priority are considered more foundational. Interviewees also said that existing programs address different parts of the chain leading from basic research to commercialization; for example, projects funded through the Strategic Priority may go on to receive funding through other programs aimed at facilitating demonstration or commercialization.

Something that would be useful from the perspective of assessing and obtaining a sense of where an initiative fits and contributes towards the overall federal objectives for bioenergy is a road map of all federal bioenergy-related initiatives and how they work together to achieve a common overall goal, or at the very least, all of those funded through or managed by NRCan. The evaluation did not find any evidence of such documentation.

The Strategic Priority does strive to keep informed of other activities and to take steps to consult and collaborate with other stakeholders through involvement in the activities already discussed such as|: involvement of other federal departments/agencies in the decision-making aspects for funding allocation, partnerships and collaborations; dissemination and sharing of project results and other information; and participation in international activities, etc. However, there was an identified need to “bring the many facets of the bioeconomy together” and for the federal government to form a federal strategy on the bioeconomy.Footnote 98

Provinces and territories are exploring the potential applications of biomass, and most, if not all, have implemented initiatives to increase its use. Most of these appear to be in the form of establishing renewable fuel and energy standards/regulations, incentives for producing or consuming renewable fuels or assistance in commercialization aspects. Provincial initiatives related specifically to bioenergy research appear to be relatively uncommon. Interviewees mentioned few provincial initiatives.

Considerable activity is under way by private industry for developing the bioeconomy, again, particularly in the area of bioenergy. For example, the literature review revealed that there are a total of 36 facilities either in operation or construction for biofuel production and 37 plants currently in production, contributing to Canada’s rapidly growing wood pellet industry. Projects funded through the Strategic Priority which provide research results that contribute to the effectiveness or efficiencies of such endeavours would be considered complementary and supportive of these initiatives. Research undertaken through government-funded initiatives—including the projects funded through the Sustainable Bio-Energy Strategic Prioritycould play a key role in complementing the R&D conducted in the private sector. As previously discussed, respondents to Statistics Canada’s Bioproduct Development Survey identified a lack of financial capital as a barrier to bioproduct development.Footnote 99

Interviewees widely believed that the research conducted through this Strategic Priority complemented rather than duplicated activities taking place elsewhere. Stakeholders said that the Canadian private industry has limited capacity to undertake this type of research. Also, recent funding reductions at the provincial level may compel the provinces to rely, to a larger extent, on federal research efforts in this area. Most project survey leader respondents saw no duplication between these projects and those funded through other initiatives, while all believed that they complemented other initiatives such as those undertaken by their own department, other federal departments/agencies, provincial territorial governments or private industry, and universities.

Is the Strategic Priority well designed and well managed with a sound and effective governance structure?

The Strategic Priority has a structured process in place for review and assessment of proposals, with proposals assessed for both economic and environmental benefits as well as other set criteria. The S&T Portfolio Committee members review proposals based on these criteria, and come to consensus decisions on projects to fund and record decisions in meeting minutes.

There are well laid out and common reporting template that all projects must complete annually. Providing clear reporting expectations facilitates the annual reporting process, both for project leaders in preparing the reports and for OERD in consolidating and reporting on overall results. The S&T Portfolio Committee reviews project status annually and summarizes highlights in their minutes. Any missing reports are noted in the minutes. The minutes also make comments on the completeness of reports and remind project leaders of their reporting responsibilities. Furthermore, the projects summarize overall progress through annual reports. This data is used to compile the OERD annual report and the Strategic Priority has recently designed a spreadsheet for entering data from submitted projects.

Despite the high level of reporting, the evaluation had some challenges in assessing how the project results are used by industry to either assist in developing and/or commercializing technologies or products related to the bioeconomy, or creating/improving value-added products and/or industries. While some of this information is collected through the reporting templates, it would be useful to aggregate and summarize the progress made in this area in the program annual report. This information is retained within project annual reports and, to some extent, in the spreadsheets developed by OERD. For example, projects are expected to report on and identify each of the following that may have resulted from the research:

  • new or enhanced analytical tool or technology;
  • use of the findings by other stakeholders to conduct R&D and/or support technology development or business activities;
  • new or modified policies, regulations, or standards; and
  • for completed projects, how the results will be used by stakeholders and what the follow-up activities are, if any (e.g., more R&D, field trial, pilot scale).

All of these are indications of progress towards the intermediate and end outcomes. It would be of value to catalogue and report on such achievements in the Strategic Priority’s overall annual reporting. Furthermore, some interviewees spoke of commercialized technologies/products resulting from the projects. It would be useful if the reporting templates asked specifically for projects to report on such achievements.

The Strategic Priority has an established governance structure with defined committees. This structure includes participation of other federal departments and agencies with interests in the bioeconomy, as well as endeavours to include non-federal stakeholders through the External Advisory Panel (EAP). Interviewees spoke positively of the Strategic Priority’s encouragement of coordination and collaboration among partners and stakeholders involved in bioenergy. Identified benefits from wide representation in the governance of the Strategic Priority included opportunities for information sharing and improved coordination of activities pertaining to the development of the bioeconomy that had previously been carried out independently. The existence of CBIN and external advisory groups was credited with facilitating collaboration and coordination within the Strategic Priority.

However, several interviewees observed that the Strategic Priority did not make full use of the available expertise from the EAP members for making decisions on funding allocations. For example, rather than being asked to offer advice on current choices, the EAPl was perceived as being asked to comment on decisions that had already been made. This is confirmed from a review of committee minutes, which suggest that the EAP as well as other committees do not meet regularly. For example, only one set of minutes from 2008 is available for the External Advisory Panel. According to program staff, resources were not available to facilitate in-person meetings as required under the EAP terms of reference, and any input from the EAP has been primarily relayed through the chairperson or by emails. As well, the Interdepartmental Committee on the Bioeconomy only met a few times, and has not done so since 2007 apparently due to participating departments’ internal priorities.

A few stakeholders also reported that diminished funding had reduced opportunities for cooperation and collaboration among partners and stakeholders interested in facilitating the growth of the bioeconomy in Canada. For example, the low level of consultation with the EAP was attributed somewhat to funding cuts, as was reduced activity by the CBIN. Several stakeholders also expressed concerns that reduced funding to projects led by non-NRCan federal departments/agencies would also reduce incentives for their involvement in the governance component and diminish progress made in collaborative efforts.

The evaluation revealed few concerns regarding NRCan’s management of the Strategic Priority. Several stakeholders spoke highly of the coordination and management of the program by OERD staff.

Evaluation question Methodologies Assessment
7. How could the Sub-sub Activity be improved? Document review; literature review; key informant interviews; survey of project leaders; case studies; data review Several opportunities exist to make greater use of the annual reporting templates and to track the financial information on projects.

Summary: Stakeholders had few suggestions for improving the Strategic Priority; one suggestion is for greater use of the available expertise on the External Advisory Panel. It would be useful for the Strategic Priority to maintain a consolidated record of funding to each project in one easily accessed source.

Stakeholders were largely positive on the Strategic Priority activities and made few comments or suggestions for improvements. One of the few suggestions made pertained to making greater use of the expertise available in the EAP through more meetings and consulting with them prior to making funding decisions on projects. Additionally, several stakeholders expressed concerns about the low level of funding to Subprograms 3 and 4 and their subsequent cancellation. However, stakeholders recognized the fiscal challenges currently faced by federal departments and the implications for the Strategic Priority.

The Strategic Priority should keep a consolidated record of funding to each project in one easily accessed source. Some effort is being made in this direction through the Excel spreadsheets of each project. However, these are maintained by funding initiatives (PERD, ecoETI, CEF) and do not provide a full accounting of projects for the Strategic Priority; they also cover only recent years. Furthermore, the evaluation had difficulty following projects that were transferred to another funding initiative once one funding initiative ended as project numbers and, sometimes, titles changed (e.g., once the T&I R&D Initiative ended, some projects were transferred to PERD or ecoETI funding).

5.0 Conclusions and Recommendations

5.1 Relevance

The development of a sustainable bioeconomy and the replacement of non-renewable fossil fuels with bioenergy sources are expected to provide Canadians with both environmental and economic benefits. These include reduced GHG and CAC emissions, as well as a diversified and more secure energy mix. Canada has the opportunity to become a leader in the bioeconomy, given its abundant potential biomass resources. Development of the bioenergy industry can assist Canada in meeting emissions reduction targets and create employment and other economic opportunities including diversification of traditional areas of agriculture and forestry.

However, the development of the bioeconomy also requires public and private investments in research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) that will facilitate sustainable, energy-efficient, and competitive Canadian industries. The R&D projects funded through the Strategic Priority are considered necessary to fill knowledge gaps and contribute towards research that Canadian firms could not conduct on their own. Canadian firms, which are predominantly small, identify the lack of financial capital as a main barrier in bioproduct development.

The Strategic Priority funds R&D projects with the objective of reducing fossil fuel energy consumption, reducing GHG and other emissions, diversifying the energy supply, and developing a bio-based economy. Authority for federal involvement in funding such activities is provided through Section 21 of the Energy Efficiency Act and Section 6 of the Natural Resources Act. The objectives of the Strategic Priority are consistent with Canada’s environmental and economic priorities, including commitments to climate change and delivering on Canada’s Economic Action Plan. Initiatives for developing the bioeconomy within Canada, reducing reliance on non-renewable energy sources, and associated environmental issues align with NRCan’s strategic outcome to be a world leader on environmental responsibility in the development and use of natural resources.

5.2 Performance

The Strategic Priority distributed a total of $33.4 million in federal program funds over the five-year evaluation period. An additional $23.2 million was disbursed in other federal funding. These funds, along with the non-federal partner contributions of $74 million (cash and in-kind funding), resulted in a total of $130.6 million distributed to R&D projects. The evaluation revealed that the Strategic Priority is making good progress in achieving immediate outcomes. Project activity is highly-focused in the areas of increased knowledge and understanding of new and existing biomass resource potential, biofuels, and bioenergy, and new and improved applications for biomass conversion technologies. Projects are generating and disseminating a large number of knowledge products related to biomass resources and conversion technologies in the form of research papers and publications, workshops/conferences, patents, etc. Projects also report that the knowledge gained is of value in the development of policies and provide some examples of how this can occur, although only a few specific examples of policies, standards, or regulations related to R&D were found.

Partnerships and collaborations established both through the funded projects and the governance activities are a strong feature of the Strategic Priority. Other federal science-based departments and agencies are involved in the governance aspects of the Strategic Priority, including AAFC, EC, IC, NRC, and NSERC. Plus, as project leads, several federal SBDAs are direct beneficiaries of the Strategic Priority. These include AAFC, EC, IC, NRC, NRCan-CFS, and NRCan-CanmetENERGY.

Most projects have partners, with close to half of the projects reporting five partners or more. Partners include federal departments as well as private industry, provincial governments, universities and other research organizations. All stakeholders view the partnerships as important to the success of the projects and also believe that the projects foster relationships amongst stakeholders.

Projects appear to be making some progress towards intermediate outcomes although evidence of such progress is more qualitative or anecdotal, revealed through stakeholder opinion, examples given in interviews, or case studies of projects. Stakeholders widely believe that the R&D undertaken has significant potential to reduce GHG and CAC emissions and some believe that this is already occurring. Several estimates of potential GHG emissions reduction with development and usage of specific bioenergy applications were revealed, but none were on a project-by-project basis that allowed for an aggregate estimate overall for the Strategic Priority. Stakeholders pointed out that the funded projects and activities were still at the foundational stages, and GHG reduction potential at the commercialization stage could not be reliably predicted.

There is wide belief that significant potential exists for the R&D to contribute towards creation of new value-added opportunities and creation/expansion of existing industries. These include a range of emerging opportunities in a variety of industries, including forestry, agriculture, energy, automobile manufacturing (e.g., the incorporation of bio-based materials), waste management and disposal, and the chemical industry, among others. However, as these are longer term outcomes and most of the projects were considered basic or applied/bench-scale research, most are not yet at the stage of commercialization. Some evidence of reaching or approaching the commercialization stage was revealed through stakeholder interviews, case studies and in the file review of annual reports.

The Strategic Priority has developed a structured process for determining support for projects based on a consensual approach from a representative S&T Portfolio Committee that uses a common set of criteria considering relevance, risks, and both economic and environmental impacts. Most stakeholders were satisfied with the allocation of funds between subprograms. Projects in Sustainable Feedstock and Biomass Conversion received the bulk of the funds over the evaluation period (84 percent). The Subprogram on Biorefineries and Bioplexes was an emerging area of research and was primarily funded by sunsetting programs, while S&T activities related to Subprogram 4 was an integral part of many projects funded under Subprograms 1 and 2.

The Strategic Priority projects leveraged a high level of funding from project partners, with every dollar of program funds invested over the five-year period leveraging $2.91 in investments from all partners, of which $2.22 was from non-federal partners.

The Strategic Priority has a well laid out and common reporting structure and strives to ensure that all projects follow their due diligence and that information is summarized in an annual report. Some of the reporting on results by projects could be used to a greater extent to show progress towards achievement of intermediate and end outcomes. As well, while the program has a well established governance structure, some committees meet irregularly, if at all. The Strategic Priority does not appear to make full use of the available non-federal expertise on the EAP.

5.3 Recommendations

  1. NRCan should review the Strategic Priority’s current governance structure given that some of the committees are not fully used, and determine best use of the resources currently assigned to committees. This would include assessing use of the External Advisory Panel and whether greater use could be made of the external expertise available through the External Advisory Panel.
  2. NRCan should maintain a consolidated ongoing financial recording of project funds. This should be set up in a manner which provides historical context of project funding, including recognition of projects continued under different funding initiatives and with different project numbers, or continued in phases.
  3. NRCan, in consultation with the other federal departments conducting biofuels/bioenergy initiatives, should review the future direction of Sustainable Bioenergy given the need to ensure the most effective use of its limited resources.

Appendix A: Description of Case Study Projects

Project Title Total NRCan Project Funding Period Description Results
Further Development of the Biomass Inventory and Mapping Analysis Tool (BIMAT) $309,000 through ecoETI 2008­–09 to 2010–11 Project aim was to expand BIMAT inventories by adding livestock straw demand while also improving analytical capabilities by adding a feedstock transportation analysis function. Contributed to improvement of feedstock models and harvest cost analysis, improvement and expansion of inventory estimates, increased understanding of livestock demand and erosion, and in-season analysis of location and potential of feedstocks. Also contributed to improved inventory estimates, livestock demand, increased knowledge of residue requirements to minimize erosion risk, in-season analysis of feedstocks and transportation cost analysis. The project applied for continued funding under the ecoETI.
Improved Biomass Feedstock Inventory and Sustainability Analysis to Link BIMAT and RETScreen and International Feedstock Supply Models—Phase II $400,000 allocated to 2012–13 through PERD 2009–10 to 2012–13 Complements the BIMAT development project by adding fibre quality, canola chaff production, and herbaceous perennial production models to the BIMAT inventory, as well as adding analytical functions that allow users to estimate economic and carbon harvest costs associated with this feedstock. Improvements in understanding of flax fibre production allow quality to be estimated in addition to quantity, and this assists with in-season prediction of biomass supply. The cost modelling also provides information about the cost effectiveness of using biomass. The project’smodels forflax straw quality and canola chaff, supply chain logistics, perennial crop production, in-season production, and carbon/cost analysis are all cited as providing new or enhanced modelling capabilities.

This project is Phase II of a three phase plan. The first phase was the initial compilation of biomass inventory and the creation of the BIMAT tool. The current Phase II involves refining and adding to this inventory information, as well as providing foundational analytical tools to complement these inventories. The next stage is expected to build on the analytical tools and focus on expanding logistics modeling and carbon accounting, with the goal of creating “full-cost accounting of biomass from ripe crop through to the plant gate.”
GIS-Based Inventory and Analysis of Forest Biomass $591,000 through ecoETI 2008–09 to 2010–11 The goal of the project was to determine how much woody biomass is available, describe its location and characteristics, and ascertain whether there are opportunities for a continuous supply. The project will contribute towards enhancing the accuracy of BIMAT. The main accomplishments of the project were developing an expanded inventory of woody biomass, identifying jurisdictional responsibility for this biomass, providing supply chain information, and cost-effectiveness of harvesting the biomass. The information assists in revealing gaps in the biomass inventory and where these gaps can be filled in by adapting plantation management practices to make biomass available.

Future areas of work include:
  • updating the knowledge derived from the project’s products to meet the evolving demand for biomass feedstock information;
  • incorporating the project outputs into the CFS ProMis project, which is an online database that tracks projects for CFS programs;
  • using and expanding the inventory and supply chain components of the Biomass Value Simulation Model; and
  • the policy and economics group of CFS is incorporating inventory data into industry competitiveness analysis and bio-pathways modelling.
Developing Short-Rotation Plantation/Agroforestry Systems for Bioenergy Generation in Canada $812,000 through ecoETI 2008–09 to 2010–11 The project’s broad objective was developing short-rotation plantation/agroforestry systems for bioenergy and bioproducts generation. This included determining the potential of native willow species as a biomass source, analyzing and improving purpose-grown woody bioenergy feedstock practices, determining the economic viability of short-rotation woody biomass, identifying R&D and adoption issues to be addressed in the short term, and effectively coordinating the project. The project expanded knowledge of best practices through its distribution across Canada of the costs and values for three purpose-grown woody feedstock management regimes. The analysis of R&D options and adoption issues resulted in identification and clarification of 12 key development and applications issues through an expert survey. The selection of native willow clones for short-rotation intensive culture influenced recommendations for proper species and clone selections.

The project continued with partners until March 2012 through CEF funding to further examine the key impediments to establishing extensive short-rotation plantation/agroforestry systems in Canada. This included examining environmental concerns, risk and uncertainty, the lack of standardization in determining biomass yield before harvest, and characterizing the biomass at different steps in the production process

Technologies Beyond Anaerobic Digestion (AD), Gasification and Pyrolysis for bio-based high-value production from secondary biomass feedstock

$1.6 million through ecoETI

2008–09 to 2010–11

The project’s broad objectives were to “develop routes and pathways beyond the unit operations of AD, gasification, and pyrolysis of secondary biomass feedstocks for bio-based energy production, either electricity at high yield, or chemicals or liquid fuels as butanol.”Footnote 100 Activities were undertaken through six modules related to anaerobic digestion: biobutanol from methanol or methane; gas purification and separation; solid oxide fuel cell for power generation from syngas and biogas; power from raw syngas-fed microbial fuel cells; and anaerobic conversion of syngas into butanol.

Researchers built upon existing techniques and tested new techniques to achieve objectives for developing routes and pathways for bio-based energy production such as bio-electricity, chemicals, or liquid fuels such as butanol. Researchers expect butanol to become a “biofuel of choice” because it is less volatile and less prone to hydration than ethanol, and it possesses higher energy density and viscosity. The researchers’ work in this area has led to several patents.

The project expected to pursue continued funding under the new CEF with a goal of testing different components at a larger scale.

Replacement of Fossil Fuels Used in Greenhouses with Energy from Biomass Residues $553,000 through ecoETI 2008–09 to 2010–11 The project objective was to contribute towards use of renewable energy in greenhouses. The research sought to evaluate and improve fuel quality; reduce greenhouse heating costs; evaluate the potential of biomass sources, such as miscanthus, as a purpose-grown crop; develop technology for removing contaminants from biomass flue gas to make it suitable for carbon dioxide supplementation to accelerate plant growth; and facilitate establishment of a market for biomass residues. The project results facilitate use of biomass as a fuel source for greenhouses, increasing their use of renewable energy, and reducing their reliance on natural gas as a heating source. The project resulted in a number of outputs that involved decreasing contaminant levels in greenhouses resulting from biomass combustion and integrating boiler control systems with greenhouse climate control systems. The development of an improved energy management and control system resulted in an estimated 20 percent reduction of CAC emissions. Furthermore, the system increases efficiency by increasing fuel utilization by 25 percent, reducing system cycling time, and reducing particulates to a level that meets requirements set by the Ministry of the Environment.

Identified follow-up steps for the project included:
  • Greenhouse and Processing Crops Research Centre in Harrow, Ontario will continue work on the use of biomass flue gas to provide carbon dioxide enrichment for plants in greenhouses; CanmetENERGY will transfer existing knowledge, models, and equipment to Harrow;
  • continued partnering between CanmetENERGY, OMAFRA and AAFC in the event of further funding;
  • further work to reduce nitrogen oxide to levels acceptable for long-term exposure in greenhouses;
  • perform long-term monitoring of Harrow’s greenhouse test cells and continued involvement by CanmetENERGY through data interpretation and scientific publications.

Appendix B: Sustainable Bioenergy Governing Bodies

  • The Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) Panel on Energy S&T provides high-level strategic advice and consists of ADMs, or their equivalents, from seven SBDAs: AAFC, EC, DFO, HC, IC, NRC, and NRCan (Energy Sector). The ADM for the latter chairs the Panel and reports to the Deputy Minister of NRCan.
  • The Director General (DG) Committee on Energy S&T, consisting of DGs, or their equivalents, from 15 federal departments and agencies, informs and advises the ADM Panel on Energy S&T on operational matters, funding allocation decisions, portfolio strategic plans, and ensures representation of partner SBDAs’ interests. The DG of OERD, Energy Sector, serves as chair of this committee, also serving as the liaison with the ADM Panel, participating as a non-voting member.
  • Portfolio Committees are responsible for management of planning and administrative matters and exist for each of the nine portfolios within the Energy S&T Sub Activity, including Bio-Based Energy Systems. Responsibilities encompass identification of priority areas, development of strategic plans, and program management such as reviewing proposals, approving projects, and monitoring progress. SBDAs senior scientific, technical, and policy experts sit on the Portfolio Committees.

    The S&T Portfolio Committee overseeing the S&T activities of the Bio-Based Energy Systems comprises SBDA members of the Canadian Biomass Innovation Network (CBIN). CBIN, which is managed and funded by OERD, is a network of federal stakeholders whose goal is “to continually ensure the availability of the knowledge base and the enabling policy environment required to support the development of a sustainable bio-economy in Canada”.Footnote 101 This is achieved through the strategic investments of PERD and ecoETI funds in the four subprogram areas. S&T Portfolio Committee members include AAFC, EC, IC, NRC, NSERC and NRCan.Footnote 102
  • An External Advisory Committee (EAC) supports each of the Portfolio Committees. EACs consist of non-federal stakeholders (e.g., academia, the private sector, other levels of government, and non-government agencies) nominated by the Portfolio Committee. EAC members – with knowledge in R&D and demonstration activities relevant to the portfolio – provide advice and the non-federal perspective to their committee, including to review and advise on Portfolio structure and balance between priorities and recommendations on allocations of funds between programs.
  • The members of the External Advisory Panel (EAP) for the Sustainable Bioenergy Systems Portfolio, as of the 2009–10 annual report, consisted of representatives from Enterprise Saskatchewan, Atlantic Bioresource TechnoVenture Centre, BC Innovation Council, University of Saskatchewan, Centre québécois de valorisation des biotechnologies, POS Pilot Plant Corporation, S&T2 Consultants Inc and Manitoba Hydro.
  • The CBIN Interdepartmental Committee on the Bioeconomy (ICBE) directs the S&T Portfolio Committee. The ICBE consists of DGs and senior managers from relevant federal departments who oversee “the operation of PERD and ecoETI from the perspective of broad Government of Canada objectives and policies, as well as in the context of activities and developments in bioenergy, biofuels and industrial bioproducts that are being spearheaded by international organizations”.Footnote 103 As well, there is a CBIN Executive Committee that “addresses wider issues related to the development of a Canadian bioeconomy and helps facilitate the coordination and management of a broad range of S&T, policy, regulatory and sustainability issues.”Footnote 104