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A future-proof solution to achieve Europe's Fit for 55 objectives? Bioheat

Bioenergy is often linked to power gen but the numbers tell a different story with bioheat, accounting for 74 percent of all bioenergy consumption in the EU. Furthermore, according to the latest Eurostat data, in 2019 renewables in heating (RES-H) were 22.1 percent. In the same year, biomass represented 85 percent of all RES-H allowing a reduction in emissions by approximately 160 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2eq), Bioenergy Europe finds in its 2021 Statistical Report Bioheat.

Bioenergy Europe’s “2021 Statistical Report Bioheat” report clearly shows that the European heating sector still relies heavily on fossil fuels, while solid biomass is the single largest renewable energy source (graphic courtesy Bioenergy Europe).

For the third time since its launch in 2007, the annual Statistical Report published by Bioenergy Europe (previously known as AEBIOM) is being split into different publications, each one covering a different aspect of bioenergy.

The trade body has released its “2021 Statistical Report Bioheat with accompanying Policy Brief that analyses the current state of play of biomass in the European heating sector as well as recommendations from the sector.

According to the report, a breakdown per sector shows that:

  • Renewables for domestic heating accounted for 24 percent, with bioheat covering 84.3 percent of total RES;
  • Renewables in district heating represented 27.6 percent, with bioenergy (96.5 percent) tripling since 2000;
  • Renewables in industrial heating accounted for 14.2 percent and are almost entirely covered by bioenergy (99.9 percent)

The report clearly shows that the heating sector still relies heavily on fossil fuels, which accounted for 78 percent of the heat and 34 percent of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Europe in 2019.

The EU cannot afford to delay its commitment to higher RES-H penetration. The recent proposals under the Fit for 55 package mark a step in the right direction offering a necessary re-focus on the decarbonisation of the heating sector but this must be accompanied by concrete measures. With the right framework in place, bioenergy can enable this transition and deliver on the EU’s heat decarbonization goals, Bioenergy Europe stated.

Replace elderly and inefficient heat appliance stock

However, according to the European Commission’s assessment on heating technologies, 27 percent of appliances were installed before 1992. Today, around 60 percent of the EU heating stock would be considered energy labeling class C, D, or even lower due to very poor efficiency.

Biomass-based systems are part of the solution by providing constant technological advancements and more innovative and efficient heating systems. Replacing old and fossil-based appliances with efficient and affordable biomass technologies will lower GHG emissions, increase efficiency and savings, whilst reducing pollution and improving air quality. An old open fire emits the same amount of fine particles of 200-300 modern bioheat appliances. Bioenergy has its place in the decarbonization of the heating sector, in particular in those areas where the use of other RES technologies, let alone fossil fuel systems, would result in suboptimal alternatives, Bioenergy Europe points out.

Beyond domestic heating, the report notes that RES penetration in the overall EU heating system “must” be prioritized. In this respect, biomass-based district heating provides a concrete solution to further boost a fuel switch. Since 2000 bioenergy in district heating has tripled reaching a share of 96.5 percent of all RES combined in 2019.

This “remarkable increase proves once more that bioheat provides” a viable energy-efficient solution both at individual and district levels, and represents a perfect example of sector integration.

“The Fit for 55 is a unique opportunity to further promote solutions such as sustainable bioenergy to decarbonize this sector. The EU must establish a clear strategy to phase out fossil-based heating and replace old systems with modern bioheat ones to increase efficiency and reduce air pollution and emissions. The bioenergy sector is deeply committed to achieving the Green Deal’s goals while being economically very affordable for citizens,” concluded Jean-Marc Jossart, Secretary-General, Bioenergy Europe, here seen at the recently held Svebio Fuel Market Day 2021.

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