Indicators are needed to assess both socioeconomic and environmental sustainability of bioenergy systems. Effective indicators can help to identify and quantify the sustainability attributes of bioenergy options. We identify 16 socioeconomic indicators that fall into the categories of social well-being, energy security, trade, profitability, resource conservation, and social acceptability. The suite of indicators is predicated on the existence of basic institutional frameworks to provide governance, legal, regulatory and enforcement services. Indicators were selected to be practical, sensitive to stresses, unambiguous, anticipatory, predictive, estimable with known variability, and sufficient when considered collectively. The utility of each indicator, methods for its measurement, and applications appropriate for the context of particular bioenergy systems are described along with future research needs. Together, this suite of indicators is hypothesized to reflect major socioeconomic effects of the full supply chain for bioenergy, including feedstock production and logistics, conversion to biofuels, biofuel logistics and biofuel end uses. Ten indicators are highlighted as a minimum set of practical measures of socioeconomic aspects of bioenergy sustainability. Coupled with locally prioritized environmental indicators, we propose that these socioeconomic indicators can provide a basis to quantify and evaluate sustainability of bioenergy systems across many regions in which they will be deployed.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory