Bioenergy Jobs: What You Need to Know

After hydropower, bioenergy ranks as the second most-used renewable energy source used in the US, accounting for a total of three percent of primary energy production in the country.

Already a major player in the renewable energy field, the bioenergy sector is sure to grow in coming years thanks to various government programs promoting bioenergy research and production. Thanks to environmental concerns and the desire to be independent of foreign oil resources, the US Government has developed numerous programs promoting bioenergy production and research. The US Department of Energy, for example, has initiated the Renewable Energy Biomass Program to develop technology for the production of bioenergy. The US Government has also passed legislation mandating expansion in the biofuel industry. Growing demand for bioenergy means that jobs in the bioenergy sector are sure to increase in coming years, as the US struggles to meet the need for alternate fuel and energy sources.

How Does Bioenergy Work?

Bioenergy is a type of renewable energy made from natural biological fuels, known as biomass, which can be used as a source of electricity, heat or vehicle fuel known as biofuel. Biomass can be any plant-based organic material, such as agricultural crops, straw, sugar cane, manure, corn and other by-products of agricultural production.
Bioenergy has faced some setbacks due to the fact that the use of agricultural crops for energy has resulted in increasing food and stock feed prices around the world. These issues are being addressed however, as future plans encourage increased agricultural production that will be capable of meeting both future food and energy demands.

There are various types of bio-energy available today, and scientists are still working on developing alternate types of renewable bioenergy.

Two types of bioenergy are renewable diesel and ethanol, a fuel source derived from both biomass and grain-based materials. According to a May 2007 report from the US Department of Agricultural, biofuel is one of the fastest-growing renewable energy sources in the country. Corn-based ethanol is the most popular biofuel and can be used as a gasoline substitute or can be added as a gasoline supplement. The Department of Agriculture reports that global biofuel production grew from 4.8 billion gallons to 16 billion from 2000 to 2007 – an increase of more than 30 percent. The majority of bioenergy production is found in the United States, the European Union and Brazil, which implemented a successful bioenergy program after oil embargos forced the country to explore alternative fuels in the 1970s. Today an estimated 20 percent of Brazil’s energy comes from bioenergy produced from sugarcane crops.

Job Outlook in the Bioenergy Sector

Thanks to rising fuel prices, the need for more environmentally-friendly energy sources and a desire to decrease dependence on foreign oil, there is no doubt that the bioenenergy sector will continue to grow. The US Government and governments around the world are developing programs promoting bioenergy research, development and production. As the industry expands, the number of job opportunities will continue to increase. So what sort of work is available in the bioenergy field? A job in the management or construction fields could mean overseeing the operations at a bioenergy power plant where biomass is converted into usable energy. You could end up constructing bioenergy power plants, or even working in the automobile industry building cars that run on ethanol and other biofuels. Working in the development field could involve working as a chemical engineer specializing in biofuel development, while working in assessment and awareness could mean promoting the use of biofuels and biofuel-friendly vehicles as an NGO employee.

Sign up for our newsletter!