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Biomass bodies welcome European Court of Justice ruling

The US Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA) and Bioenergy Europe have both welcomed an order from the European Court of Justice dismissing as "inadmissible" a case filed against wood biomass. The court ruled the applicants, a group of six individuals and NGOs from Europe and the United States (US), lacked standing to challenge the EU’s inclusion of wood biomass in the Renewable Energy Directive (REDII).

The US Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA) and Bioenergy Europe have both welcomed an order from the European Court of Justice dismissing as “inadmissible” a case filed against wood biomass. The court ruled the applicants, a group of six individuals and NGOs from Europe and the United States (US), lacked standing to challenge the EU’s inclusion of wood biomass in the Renewable Energy Directive (REDII).

The case was originally filed with the EU’s highest court in Luxembourg on March 4, 2019, by a group of individuals and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) charging that the EU’s 2018 Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) will devastate forests and increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by promoting burning forest biomass as renewable and carbon neutral.

With this procedural ruling, the European Court of Justice clears doubts on the future of the EU’s largest renewable energy source. The inclusive work carried by the decision-makers and experts during many years of consultations, scientific debate, and evidence collection that led to the REDII sustainability framework is acknowledged as a solid approach.

We welcome the Court’s ruling, which removes unnecessary uncertainty over the future of renewable energy in Europe. Although this was a procedural ruling this was the right overall result, as the arguments put forward in the case had no value. The European institutions carried out an open consultation to gather scientific and environmental advice and considered these during the legislative process. The result was a revised Renewable Energy Directive that set out rigorous standards for the inclusion of sustainable biomass in the European energy mix, said Seth Ginther, USIPA Executive Director.

Since the early stage of the consultation, bioenergy industry stakeholders and trade bodies on both sides of the Atlantic have fully supported the introduction of sustainability criteria for solid biomass. These ensure that biomass is produced sustainably, irrespective of its geographical origin. If sustainably sourced and produced, bioenergy brings considerable environmental and socio-economic benefits.

Woodchips

Woodchips in the fuel yard of a biomass-fired combined heat and power (CHP) plant.

According to Bioenergy Europe, bioenergy accounts for almost 60 percent of all renewables energy used in the EU. It is a major industry player in the EU and contributes to local and regional economic development with more than 703 000 jobs and is a key technology for achieving the bloc’s climate goals set out in the European Green Deal.

The European Court of Justice’s ruling marks an important step in view of the REDII implementation phase. A short-sighted and ill-informed debate has been too often put forward without even having the opportunity to see the sustainability criteria in operation. While we welcome the court decision, the bioenergy sector will keep supporting sustainable sourcing of bioenergy, with the aim of delivering on the 2050 decarbonization goal, said Jean-Marc Jossart, Secretary-General of Bioenergy Europe.

Jossart pointed out that the full implementation of REDII directive is only a few months away, adding that “bioenergy producers are working hard to be ready for this moment and fully comply with the new criteria. The REDII is key to ensure the sustainable growth of the bioenergy sector, a key player in the climate-neutral transition. Bioenergy will be the ONLY energy source with mandatory sustainability criteria by law, relegating fossil energies to the stone age”.

Wood biomass the single largest source

Wood biomass, derived from the forest products industry, is the largest single source of renewable biomass and it enables European power generators to repurpose existing coal-based infrastructure with a renewable alternative that reduces the carbon intensity of electricity generation by up to 85 percent on a life-cycle basis.

Last year the US exported nearly 6 million tonnes of biomass to the EU, primarily from its Southeastern states. This region has been the center of America’s forest products industry since the early 20th century and is one of the largest and most sustainably-managed wood baskets in the world.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, wood volume in this region has increased by 21 percent since 2000, and southeastern landowners are currently growing 43 percent more wood than they remove every year. Independent analysis shows this trend is also consistent within the local sourcing areas surrounding multiple biomass production plants.

As noted by forest economists, forest stocks have been increasing in the US Southeast because markets for wood products, like biomass, provide financial incentives for private landowners to keep investing in the continual cycle of thinning, harvesting and replanting trees.

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