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Efficiency Type Index // Analysis of the current World Biofuel Production under a Water–Food–Energy Nexus Perspective

By Emanuele Moioli, Federico Salvati, Marco Chiesa, Rosa T. Siecha, Flavio Manenti, Francesco Laio, Maria Cristina Rulli. This paper assesses the sustainability of bioenergy production under a nexus perspective through a new efficiency type index. The index describes 1st generation biofuel production under the perspective of the implied consumption of natural resources. The direct application of the nexus index entails an indication of the possible improvements needed to move production towards most sustainable processes or places. Moreover, it allows evaluating the efficiency of the main crops currently used in biofuel production with respect to the water–food–energy nexus. The results depict countries presently capable of performing sustainable production of 1st generation biofuel from particular crops.

Analysis of current world biofuel production

Recently, decision makers have given many incentives to the production of energy from renewable resources, finding in biofuels a good opportunity to decrease CO2 emissions. Many authors have analysed the single subcomponents of water–food–energy nexus and many indicators exist to analyse the effect of 1st generation biofuel production in terms of water use and depletion, competition with food and land consumption. These models, while providing useful information in their application field, lack the data and methodological components required to conduct an integrated policy assessment.

The authors propose a new index, which resumes in one single output the effect of 1st generation biofuel energy production on sustainability under a FEW nexus perspective. The index is aimed to analyse the interrelationship among water, food and energy in 1st generation biofuel production at the global scale and to assess the sustainability of biofuel production from a specific crop in a single country.

The output of the method is a score, which defines the efficiency of the production of biofuels. The index is the product of three intermediate indexes that quantify all the key parameters in biofuel production. The Nexus Index determines if a country is efficiently managing biofuel production from a specific crop, defining the lowest attainable consumption of resources in this process.


Science Direct (open access)


November 2018


Advances in Water Resources, Volume 121, Pages 22-31

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