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Wood pellets enhancing EU's green recovery

The EU28 produced nearly 18 million tonnes of wood pellets in 2019, representing 5 percent growth compared to that of 2018. Across the EU, the primary source of feedstock is wood processing residues, making pellets a "true example of resource efficiency and circularity" according to a new report from Bioenergy Europe.

The EU28 produced nearly 18 million tonnes of wood pellets in 2019, representing 5 percent growth compared to that of 2018 according to a new report from Bioenergy Europe (graphic courtesy Bioenergy Europe).

For the second time since its launch in 2007, the 2020 Statistical Report published by Bioenergy Europe (previously known as AEBIOM) is being split into different publications, each chapter one covering a different aspect of bioenergy. The fifth chapter of its Statistical Report 2020 focuses on wood pellets highlighting the key contribution of the wood pellets to the EU sustainable recovery, and to the 2050 carbon neutrality target.

According to the report, the EU28 produced nearly 18 million tonnes of pellets in 2019 which corresponds to about 7.6 Mtoe and is 5 percent up compared to that of 2018. Across the EU, the primary source of feedstock is wood processing residues, making pellets a “true example of resource efficiency and circularity.”

Furthermore, the report notes that pellet production places an economic purpose on damaged and otherwise unmerchantable wood, making sanitary cuttings and other necessary forest management operations viable.

In several of the EU Member States, such as the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, and Belgium, this already represents a solution to incentivise insect-damaged wood removal from the forests.

Sustainable and cost-effective renewable fuel

Pellets use which is a sustainable, efficient, and secured solution for households, commercial and small industrial processes also represent a cost-effective mean to defossilise the European heating sector.

The report points out that pellets are often cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives such as heating oil, natural gas, or coal, making it a “perfect ally” to tackle energy poverty.

With 16,4 million tonnes consumed within the EU28 in 2019, heating with pellets is increasing in popularity in many member states. Nonetheless, there is still a high share of residential heat­ing appliances running on fossil fuel in EU28.

As confirmed by the recent State of the Energy Union report, fossil fuels still enjoy different forms of subsidies (over EUR 50 bn in 2018, up 6% compared to 2015). Such measures undermine the competitiveness of renewable solutions, thereby delaying the transition towards carbon neutrality.

The proposed EU target to reduce emissions by at least 55 percent greenhouse gas (GHG) by 2030 and zero net emissions by 2050, re­quires a rapid phasing out of fossil fuels in all sectors of the European economy.

Wood pellet production in Europe has shown consistent year-on-year growth (graphic courtesy Bioenergy Europe).

In this regard, both heating and industry sectors are lagging behind. Pellets are one of the readily available and economically affordable solutions to phase out fossil fuels from the power sector, industrial processes, and residential heating.

Policymaker recommendations

Overall, the Statistical Report on Pellets sets out a number of essential recommendations for policymakers moving forward emphasizing that a “stable policy framework is essential” for providing a sufficiently long-term perspective to companies to further invest in pellet production and use, helping further climate change mitigation efforts.

Unlocking support through the Renovation Wave, to allow citizens to switch from fossil-fueled heating appliances to modern and efficient pellet solutions, is key.

Tailored measures to support the upscaling of bioenergy solutions in medium-scale heat markets such as schools, hospitals, and residential buildings should also be “carefully designed and implemented”, the report suggests.

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