Biogas the flexible and renewable enabler of (European) decarbonization
A new statistical report on biogas jointly compiled by Bioenergy Europe in collaboration with the European Biogas Association (EBA), shows that in 2017, the European Union (EU) was able to cut about 61 Mt CO2eq by using biogas. This represents a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions saving of 1.3 percent of the annual EU GHG emissions or roughly the equivalent of the annual emissions of Bulgaria.
Recently Ursula von der Leyen, new President of the European Commission committed to make Europe the “first climate-neutral continent.” Her mandate begins with a strong political commitment in the right direction. With 73 percent of the EU’s energy consumption in 2017 still based on fossil fuels, the main source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, rapid large-scale deployment of existing clean technologies and investments in R&D to develop disruptive innovations are a must says Bioenergy Europe.
In this context, a legislative framework enabling the large-scale deployment of sustainable biogas and biomethane will be of critical importance to decarbonize industrial processes, transports and help to balance the power grid. A new statistical report on biogas jointly compiled by Bioenergy Europe in collaboration with the European Biogas Association (EBA) aims to provide policymakers and other stakeholders with the most up-to-date figures on the sector.
Decentralized and dispatchable
Biogas is produced through the anaerobic digestion (AD) or gasification of agricultural wastes, energy crops, sewage sludge, biodegradable wastes or wood residues from industry, households and commercial uses.
Its versatility allows its use for energy production, in power, heat and transport sectors, as well as in industrial processes. Decentralized biogas production and use in rural areas offer the opportunity to green the agricultural sector, provides rural communities with a sustainable source of energy and diversifies farmer’s income.
Biogas generation offers involved operators a revenue that can be forecasted: this is a decisive factor for the long-term prospects of a farming business.
Sustainable biogas is much more than energy: it is the key for decarbonization for several industrial sectors, to improve competitiveness and sustainability of agriculture and farms through the production of renewable energy and fertiliser, remarked Jean-Marc Jossart, Bioenergy Europe, Secretary-General, Bioenergy Europe.
Biogas is readily dispatchable and has proven to be highly efficient with a reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. By using biogas, the EU was able to cut about 61 Mt CO2eq in 2017, GHG emission savings representing 1.3 percent of the annual EU GHG emissions or roughly the equivalent of the annual GHG emissions of Bulgaria.
This the trade bodies say, demonstrates how biogas can contribute to getting the EU closer to cut its emissions by 40 percent by 2030.
The potential of biogas is confirmed by a drastic increase in its consumption: 25 times since 1990 reaching in 2017 a gross inland energy consumption of 16 826 ktoe produced in 17 783 installations. Moreover, in recent years several EU countries started digging in the potential of biogas’s upgraded version – biomethane also called renewable natural gas (RNG). Since 2011 the number of biomethane plants in Europe has tripled.
The upgraded version of biogas – containing 96 percent or more of methane – has the advantage of having the same characteristics of natural gas and can be therefore injected in the grid or used in any other sector where natural gas is used today.
While Germany historically counts the highest number of biomethane plants, France had the highest growth rate for biomethane plants in 2017 and 2018 due to favorable policy conditions and aims at reach 1 000 biomethane plants injecting gas into the national gas grid by 2020.
The French example demonstrates that by introducing favorable legislative frameworks and incentives, biomethane production can drastically increase. Equally, to untap the potential of biomethane the EU should gear up for its large- scale deployment.
To achieve this, fossil fuels subsidies should be phased out in favour of measures promoting a credible carbon price able to internalize the negative externalities of local and global pollution.
If we are to achieve climate targets and we want a real transition towards a circular economy, it is crucial to unlock the full potential of all renewable energy sources. Scaling up biogas and biomethane production means promoting renewable energy and fertilisers, but also standing by local development, efficient agriculture and sustainability, said Susanna Pflüger, Secretary-General of the EBA.