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EU's solid biomass energy consumption in 2018 stable at 99.3 Mtoe – EurObserv'ER

Solid biomass energy consumption trend swings depend on public policies promoting its use, but they are also highly susceptible to weather conditions. In 2018, it was a mixed bag, with variations across its uses. The demand for heat declined in the European Union (EU), due to a milder winter, while there was a rise in electricity production. All in all, the sector’s primary energy consumption was stable at 99.3 Mtoe, 0.3 percent lower than in 2017 according to EurObserv'ER data.

According to the EurObserv’ER Solid Biomass Energy Barometer 2019, solid biomass is the main renewable energy source in the EU primarily used for producing renewable heat. Solid biomass is mainly used in the form of woodchips and briquettes but includes many other forms such as wood waste, pellets, sawdust, straw, bagasse or black liquors from the pulp and paper industry.

The energy recovery of this material is basically channelled into producing heat. The demand for heat declined in the EU, due to a milder winter, while there was a rise in electricity production. All in all, the sector’s primary energy consumption was stable albeit 0.3 percent lower than in 2017 and is just below the 100 Mtoe threshold (99.3 Mtoe).

For electricity generation, the 2018 output increased by 5.1 percent over 2017, by 5 TWh, which took it over the 100 TWh threshold with 103.2 TWh in 2018. Growth was essentially driven by the UK, Finland, and Bulgaria where conversions of large coal-fired plants to solid biomass fuels have been observed.

From 2021 onwards, solid biomass use for energy will be subject to strict EU sustainability criteria. European wood pellet consumption rises by 8 percent in 2018 to 26.1 million tonnes. In 2019, the UK was the European Union’s biggest wood pellet user with 8.5 million tonnes, ahead of Italy (3.3 million tonnes), Denmark (3.1 million tonnes), Germany (2.2 million tonnes), Sweden (1.8 million tonnes), France (1.6 million tonnes), Belgium (1.5 million tonnes), Austria (0.96 million tonnes), the Netherlands (0.57 million tonnes), Spain (0.57 million tonnes), Poland (0.45 million tonnes) and Finland (0.44 million tonnes).

The report notes that one of the sector’s fundamental ongoing trends is the conversion of large power plants, i.e. the gradual substitution of coal-fired plants by biomass plants, not by demolishing and rebuilding, but by adapting the plants to run on the new fuels.

A Bruks 1006 ST chipper mounted on a Ponsse Buffalo forwarder in action at a biomass terminal in central Sweden.

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