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RED III adoption welcome but “primary woody biomass” raises concerns

RED III adoption welcome but “primary woody biomass” raises concerns
"Primary woody biomass" from a sustainable secondary forest – a pile of logging residues on the roadside, covered with a paper wrap to aid air drying. Once dry, will be used for energy at a local biomass-fired heat plant and/or combined heat and power (CHP) plant. Not all harvesting site ecologies or economies permit the removal of logging residues and at least 20 percent is to be left on site.

In response to the European Parliament vote, Bioenergy Europe says that it welcomes the adoption of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED III) revision by the European Parliament. However, the new definition of "primary woody biomass" still raises some concerns.

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On September 14, 2022, the European Parliament adopted its position on two key files for the bioenergy sector: the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) and the Renewable Energy Directive (RED).

In its efforts to increase Europe’s energy and climate ambitions, the Parliament voted for a higher renewable target, with the aim of reaching 45 percent from renewable energy sources (RES) by 2030.

If we are to achieve these targets, the need for biomass is more crucial than ever. Therefore, we welcome the Parliament’s decision to keep counting all biomass for energy, including primary woody biomass, towards the renewable energy target, Bioenergy Europe said.

Concerns surround “primary woody biomass”

Despite this positive outcome, the adopted text still presents some concerning issues such as the lack of support for primary woody biomass (PWB).

This new measure will make bioenergy from primary woody biomass the only renewable source not eligible for support, creating an uneven playing field with other solutions, and this is not acceptable.

When comparing subsidies per unit of energy produced, biomass receives significantly lower support than other renewable sources, not to mention fossil energy.

Given that sustainable bioenergy is almost exclusively sourced, produced, and dispatched within the EU, the subsidies that the sector receives are being used efficiently to support the EU economy and create jobs.

Bioenergy Europe points out that removing these subsidies without eliminating support for fossil fuels will send troublesome signals to the market slowing decarbonization

On top of this, the Parliament also established a cap for the share of PWB relative to the total biomass used, which would be limited to the share of PWB from 2017-2022.

Caps and phase-downs would be counterproductive at a time when Europe needs to mobilize all available resources Bioenergy Europe says.

Succeeding in the energy transition, becoming more energy independent is only possible if we don’t restrict any renewable energy for the wrong reasons. Decision makers should trust more scientific evidence. Primary biomass comes from sustainable forest management practices that are necessary for our forests to stand challenging climate pressure, said Jean-Marc Jossart, Secretary-General of Bioenergy Europe.

Contradicts climate ambitions

Limiting the use of a renewable source like bioenergy contradicts the ambitions of the European Commission to ramp up renewables and meet their ambitious climate goals.

Irene di Padua, Policy Director at Bioenergy Europe here seen addressing delegates by video link at the Svebio Fuel Market Day that was held in Stockholm, Sweden on September 8, 2022.

This affects the entire supply chain, starting with forest owners who depend on the revenues they receive from the bioenergy sector to continue managing their forests in a sustainable way.

Without management, forests would be even more under pressure as a result of the changing climate, leaving them with too little time to adapt on their own.

Indeed, Bioenergy Europe points out that both leading climate scientist Professor Michael Obersteiner, and EC Commissioner, Frans Timmermans, have stated that, without biomass, we are not going to achieve the 1.5 oC degree target.

Today’s result is a clear signal that biomass is and will remain a part of the EU’s renewable energy future, and we welcome this. The proposal to exclude primary woody biomass from renewables would have been a missed opportunity, as primary woody biomass represents 20 percent of the total renewable energy mix in the EU. Considering the effects it would have, not only on wood-related sectors but also on energy security for the entire EU, this would have been a very worrisome outcome, commented Irene di Padua, Policy Director at Bioenergy Europe.

As stressed by the rapporteur, MEP Markus Pieper during his press conference on September 14, “we need wood-based biomass for energy in order to achieve the energy transition.”

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