Biomass use for electricity generation in NSW: life-cycle impacts and cost in the context of other renewable energy options


This project will consider electricity generation options for NSW based on the use of biomass, taking into account information on existing and potential biomass availability, suitable generation locations and transmission capacity. It will utilise data from detailed assessments of biomass availability in NSW conducted by NSW DPI, and current research by NSW DPI evaluating the potential for energy crops in NSW. A key source of data will be the AREMI platform
The PhD candidate will be supervised by Dr Arunima Malik and Prof Manfred Lenzen. The applicant will join the ISA Research Group at the School of Physics – The University of Sydney. ISA develops leading-edge research and applications for environmental and broader sustainability issues, bringing together expertise in environmental science, economics, technology, and social science. 
A complimentary scholarship will be made available.


Dr Arunima Malik, Professor Manfred Lenzen

Research Location

School of Physics

Program Type



The key objective of this project is to understand at a broader level the life-cycle implications and generation cost of the inclusion of biomass as a significant renewable energy source for electricity generation in NSW, in a comparison with other renewable energy options. A second objective is to investigate how bioenergy can complement and support solar and wind, thus enabling greater penetration of renewables. To meet these objectives, the PhD candidate will use multi-region input-output (MRIO) techniques (Murray and Lenzen 2013; Tukker and Dietzenbacher 2013) and life-cycle and carbon accounting tools (Udo de Haes and Heijungs 2007; Cherubini et al. 2009; Wiedmann et al. 2011; Brandão et al. 2013; Malik et al. 2014; Smith et al. 2015) in the Australian Industrial Ecology Laboratory (AusIELab, – see Lenzen et al. 2014; Geschke and Hadjikakou 2017; Wiedmann 2017) to undertake triple-bottom-line / sustainability analyses, using methods demonstrated in prior work on the jobs, value added, and emissions reductions implications of biomass operations in the Green Triangle area (Malik et al. 2016). 
The PhD candidate will apply these methods to NSW DPI’s data, the AREMI database and the wider literature, in order to carry out a detailed comparison of biomass as an energy source for electricity generation with fossil-fuel based (coal and natural gas) and other renewable sources such as wind, solar, pumped hydro etc. In doing so, the candidate will investigate a wide range of options, for example regional differences of biomass operations, and technological configurations where biomass is either appraised as a stand-alone option, or where biomass and other fossil fuels and renewable carriers are integrated in various co-firing or co-generation modes. 
The PhD candidate will finally consider the potential implications of availability of carbon credits and renewable energy certificates for the generation cost comparison of various energy carriers, regional operations and technological configurations. 
This project is a component of a larger research program where NSW DPI will investigate the opportunities and barriers for bioenergy in NSW, undertake strategic trials to fill specific knowledge gaps, and identify pathways for bioenergy to contribute to NSW aspirational goals to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Additional Information

Additional supervisors: Prof Annette Cowie (NSW DPI /University of New England).
This project provides a PhD scholarship for living expenses, but it does not cover tuition fees for international students. International applicants will need to cover tuition fees from other funding sources. For more information and to apply please see the following links:

HDR Inherent RequirementsIn addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Examples of inherent requirements may include: 

  • Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree; Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
  • Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
  • Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
  • Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
  • Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
  • Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
  • Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
  • Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
  • Hold a current scuba diving license;
  • Hold a current Working with Children Check;
  • Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)
You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Biomass, electricity, generation, impacts, cost, renewable energy

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 2618

Other opportunities with Dr Arunima Malik

Other opportunities with Professor Manfred Lenzen