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New insights revealed by AEBIOM's latest Statistical Report

Bioenergy is Europe´s most significant source of renewable energy — both in terms of energy production and job creation. Findings from AEBIOM’s 2017 Statistical Report, released on October 17, confirms that bioenergy is among the most effective options to achieve Europe's energy transition. Released a few days before a key vote by the European Parliament’s ENVI Committee on sustainability criteria for bioenergy, it brings clarity to a debate that AEBIOM says has "been highly misrepresented".

Freshly harvested forest fibre (spruce pulpwood) awaiting collection to begin its transformation process into pulp, paper, biochemical and biofuel products as well as bioheat and biopower at a pulp mill.

With the release of the Clean Energy Package for all Europeans in late 2016, the European Commission (EC) proposed a balanced approach considering pragmatic and cost-effective criteria to ensure the sustainability of biomass used in Europe to produce energy.

However, recent debates in the European Parliament Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) have revived misleading arguments and statements which the European Biomass Association (AEBIOM) says run counter to the evidence. Final decisions on the future criteria will have an important impact on the whole sector and on the European 2030 climate energy targets.

Against this background, AEBIOM has published the 10th Edition of its Statistical Report ahead of the upcoming ENVI Committee vote on sustainability criteria for bioenergy. The report highlights the gap between ongoing debate in the ENVI Committee and reality on the ground.

Misleading focus on biomass imports

Bioenergy represents 1 percent (≈ 6 Mtoe) of total EU energy imports (graphic courtesy AEBIOM).

With ongoing discussions focused on biomass imports, one key misconception highlighted in the report is the extent of EU biomass imports from third countries. The facts are evident in the data: bioenergy represents 1 percent of total EU energy imports and only 4,4 percent of total biomass used for energy strongly suggesting the discussions are wrongly focused.

“We will miss the point if the final decision on sustainability is made only depending on biomass imports. 95 percent of the biomass consumed today is locally sourced in the EU. In order to address the energy security issue seriously, sustainability criteria should allow bioenergy to keep playing its role, regardless of where it is sourced provided it is sustainably sourced and delivering carbon savings”, said Jean-Marc Jossart, AEBIOM’s Secretary-General, here at AEBIOM’s 2016 annual conference.

Expanding EU forests provide products, services and energy

Another important finding from AEBIOM’s report is that European forests are not managed solely for energy purposes. The share of wood harvested in EU forests used in the energy sector has been relatively stable (20 percent on average since 2000), while bioenergy consumption has more than doubled over the same period of time.

The share of wood harvested in EU forests used for energy has been relatively stable (graphic courtesy AEBIOM).

Contrary to common belief, European forests are actually expanding and the lack of active management is gradually becoming an issue in many of the Member States as forest fires and epidemics could increase. In this context, for many public and private forest owners, bioenergy represents an incentive to revitalise their forests by improving their management.

Bioenergy decarbonises heating and cooling

Finally, the report confirms that bioenergy is and will continue to remain a key driver for the decarbonisation of the heating and cooling sector.

Although bioenergy has the largest renewable share in heating and cooling, more can be done (graphic courtesy AEBIOM).

With fossil fuels still amounting to 81.4 percent of the energy sources in this sector, bioenergy, which represents today about 90 percent of renewables, is among the most effective solutions to drive the energy transition.

AEBIOM highlights that replacing ageing stoves, developing the use of cogeneration to supply the industrial sectors and district heating plants is the way forward to achieve decarbonisation of the European heating and cooling sector.

Didzis Palejs Chairman of the Latvian Biomass Association (LATbio) has been elected as President of AEBIOM.

“While current EU discussions on the EU’s sustainability criteria tend to be focused on the biopower sector which is already delivering significant benefits in some Member States, the renewable heating and cooling sector tends to be forgotten. However, this sector is the unsung hero with a formidable workload. The coming EU criteria should not hamper the development of this sector based on political calculations rather than fact-based evidence”, stated Didzis Paleijs, President of AEBIOM, here seen at AEBIOM’s 2016 annual conference.

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