Biogas has not reached full potential in EU, new study shows
A new study has examined the use of biogas as a renewable energy source in Europe. It shows that the absence of policies promoting biogas in some member states means that the full potential of biogas is not being reached and makes a number of recommendations for maximising the potential of biogas.
As the EU works towards its ambitious energy and climate targets for 2020 and 2030, biogas can be a flexible and sustainable alternative source of energy, which supports energy security and greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reduction in electricity, heating, and transport. However, in some Member States, the absence of policies promoting biogas means that currently its full potential is not being used.
Commissioned by the European Commission (EC) the study “Optimal use of biogas from waste streams – An assessment of the potential of biogas from digestion in the EU beyond 2020” was carried out by a consortium of CE Delft, Eclareon and Wageningen Research (Wageningen Environmental Research and Wageningen Food & Biobased Research) the study set out to examine what policies at both EU and Member State level can best contribute to the effective and efficient growth of biogas deployment in the EU.
Call for long-term cross-sector policy framework
In 2014, 14.9 mtoe (million tonnes of oil equivalent) of biogas was produced in the EU, which represented about 7.6 percent of all primary renewable energy production in the EU. It was mainly used for renewable electricity production, followed by heat production and use as a transport fuel.
The study examines the potential role, costs, and benefits of biogas and the role that it could play in helping the EU to meet its targets for increased use of renewable energy and reduced greenhouse gas (GHG)emissions by 2020 and 2030.
It sets out four scenarios covering possible developments in the use of biogas in the EU by 2030. These show the different possible options for the use of biogas in cogeneration units (which convert it into heat and electricity directly) or for its upgrade to biomethane to be fed into the gas grid or to be used as a transport fuel.
It also examines the barriers preventing the development of biogas markets. Currently, only three countries, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom account for 77 percent of biogas production in the EU. The absence of a stable and reliable investment framework and lack of effective support are identified as key obstacles.
The study makes a number of recommendations for maximising the potential of biogas in Europe. It includes a call to create a long-term policy framework for the development of the biogas sector that also encompasses related areas, such as agriculture and waste management.
In addition to creating a stable investment framework, several regulatory and technical barriers also still need to be addressed, including those hampering cross-border energy trade. The study also strongly recommends making more use of residual heat from biogas installations and informing citizens about local biogas projects, their benefits, and safety guidelines.