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Europe can count on bioenergy but can bioenergy count on Europe?

Biomass is by far the main renewable energy source within the EU28 and in 2018 it accounted for more than 10 percent of the gross final energy consumption. Bioenergy accounts for 56.6 percent of the EU's total renewable energy consumption confirming that the sector is an indispensable and unavoidable companion of the European energy system in the decades to come according to the 2020 Bioenergy Landscape report from Bioenergy Europe.

Biomass is by far the main renewable energy source within the EU28 and in 2018 it accounted for more than 10 percent of the gross final energy consumption. Bioenergy has more than doubled since 2000 and accounts for 56.6% of the EU total renewable energy consumption while import dependency remained at 5% levels (graphic courtesy Bioenergy Europe).

Published by Bioenergy Europe, the 2020 Report on Bioenergy Landscape constitutes the final section of the Bioenergy Europe 2020 Statistical Report, which for the second time since its launch in 2007, is split into seven different publications, each one covering a different aspect of bioenergy. This last publication provides a perspective on the bioenergy sector in Europe as a whole.

The report highlights that Europe’s energy system is still largely dependent on imported fossil fuels, and whilst renewable consumption grew significantly in the last decade, their penetration in the market needs to accelerate. Biomass is by far the main renewable energy source within the EU28 and in 2018 it accounted for more than 10 percent of the gross final energy consumption.

The use of bioenergy has more than doubled since 2000 and contributes to all the final usage forms of energy i.e. heat, transport, and electricity due to its storable, dispatchable, and locally sourced nature. Bioenergy accounts for 56.6 percent of the EU total renewable energy consumption representing the largest renewable source in Europe and will remain so in the coming decades.

This confirms that the sector is an “indispensable and unavoidable” companion of the European energy system.

Circular bioeconomy

Furthermore, most biomass is locally sourced and import dependency remains very low, at 5 percent (3.7 percent for EU27). Bioenergy is an EU sourced energy and is now more important as an indigenous source compared to coal, gas, or oil.

As bioenergy relies on feedstock from agriculture and forests streams, it is therefore a relatively job-intensive sector in comparison to other types of energy. In addition, bioenergy is largely produced in rural areas and thus has a positive socio-economic impact and is a key driver of job creation.

With more than 50 000 business units, bioenergy is the largest renewable energy source in terms of direct and indirect employment, accounting for 708 600 jobs in the solid biomass, biofuels, biogas, and renewable municipal waste sectors.

In 2018, the sectors’ turnover represented EUR 57.6 billion in the EU-28. Europe has become the leader in bioenergy technologies manufacturing and is the major exporter of advanced and innovative equipment and solutions. This strongly contributes to making the industry resilient to the disruptions of the global value chains.

Bioenergy is the largest renewable energy source in terms of direct and indirect employment, accounting for 708 600 jobs in the solid biomass, biofuels, biogas, and renewable municipal waste sectors (graphic courtesy Bioenergy Europe).

But bioenergy in EU28 has also concrete environmental benefits, as it allowed to save 310 million tonnes CO2eq, equivalent to around 7 percent of the EU28 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2018, more than 2.5 times the annual emissions of Belgium.

Call for an ambitious and stable policy framework

By 2050, renewable energy sources must supply the vast majority of Europe’s energy consumption if Europe is to achieve its carbon neutrality objective. The report concludes that only an “ambitious and stable policy framework” can make the energy transition possible. A fair and coherent plan must be set now, with renewable sources forming the backbone of the EU energy mix.

Bioenergy should play a crucial role in achieving these objectives, thanks to its flexibility and reliability. On the manufacturing side, it is essential to review the European industrial strategy recognizing the decarbonisation potential of bioenergy, as well as its potential for economic growth and job creation. This will play in favour of achieving strategic autonomy in technology manufacturing.

2020 has been a difficult year for all of us but also an opportunity to trigger a real change. Bioenergy is still subject to intense polemics. However, we are delivering today real and readily available solutions for heat, electricity, and transport. With a dedicated and unique sustainability framework set in the recast Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) – that applies even beyond the border of EU – the bioenergy sector is showing the way to all other energy sectors. This is a good basis to continue innovation, strengthen the sector, and overcoming challenges. Europe can count on bioenergy, but the big question is: can bioenergy count on Europe? remarked Jean-Marc Jossart, Secretary-General, Bioenergy Europe.

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