IEA Bioenergy operates within the IEA energy technology and R&D collaboration programme. This programme facilitates co-operation among IEA Member and non-Member countries to develop new and improved energy technologies and introduce them into the market. Activities are set up under Technology Collaboration Programmes (TCPs) which provide the legal mechanisms for establishing the commitments of the Contracting Parties and the management structure to guide the activity. Contracting Parties can be government organisations or private entities designated by their governments.

The current state of the art of starch ethanol plants was documented with respect to their energy and environmental performance (particularly GHG emissions). This included a description of the advances that have been made over the past two decades to arrive at the current level of technology. The potential for future improvements in the process and technology have been investigated. This considered the identification of the current primary energy needs of the process and the means of reducing that energy through the application of technology from other industries, through technology breakthroughs, through advances in enzymes and yeasts, etc. The impact of these improvements on the energy balance and GHG emissions for biofuel performance was documented.