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REPowerEU Plan welcome but still lacks bioenergy vision

REPowerEU Plan welcome but still lacks bioenergy vision
"If Europe is serious about reaching higher renewable targets, it must put in place a clear strategy with ambitious, yet reachable objectives for each sector. In this context, the idea of limiting the support or even the use of primary woody biomass will only hinder our local renewable industry without guaranteeing further sustainability and biodiversity protection," said Irene di Padua, Policy Director of Bioenergy Europe, here seen at the 2022 European Pellets Conference in Wels, Austria.

Following up on the Commission's release of the REPowerEU Plan, Bioenergy Europe welcomes the long-awaited plan to phase out the fossil fuel dependence on Russia. However, the Association says that it regrets to see that the plan still lacks "the needed vision to recognize sustainable bioenergy as one of the key solutions to increase EU energy security."

According to Bioenergy Europe, the Commission’s REPower EU Plan only refers to bioenergy in one paragraph, acknowledging the sector’s contribution to the renewable energy mix – covering almost 60 percent of the total – and foreseeing a moderate but steady increase in the sector until 2030.

The plan lacks a proposal of any concrete measures or target accompanying the statement which shows a lack of bioenergy vision by the European Commission to pave the way for concrete and readily available solutions like solid biomass.

With the Commission failing to consider bioenergy properly, we are missing a huge opportunity to ensure energy security and supply European citizens with renewable heat at an affordable cost in the next season, said Jean-Marc Jossart, Secretary-General of Bioenergy Europe.

Considering the current geopolitical context this is simply unacceptable.

Russian fossil fuel imports are being replaced with other fossil imports and only create new dependencies which are simply moving the problem instead of solving it, Jean-Marc Jossart said.

Sustainable bioheat good for air quality and energy security

It is indeed essential to provide modern and renewable heating solutions for households as the Commission points out.

Diversifying the energy supply in the EU will be key to ensuring true independence from Russian fossil fuel imports.

European citizens need alternatives for independent and affordable energy supply options. Therefore, an ambitious plan is required to replace old and inefficient heating systems with modern ones that efficiently provide sustainable bioheat to homes while improving air quality.

A busy Fröling stand at the 2022 Energiesparmesse in Wels, Austria
A busy bioheat booth at the 2022 Energiesparmesse in Wels, Austria.

With the Plan focusing on the fast deployment of renewable energy sources, all types of bioenergy solutions play and will play an important part to secure the supply of clean energy through space heating in buildings, grid stabilization, a ramp-up of renewable power production, decarbonization of hard-to-abate industries, and the deployment of new needed technologies like Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS).

Bioenergy has more than biomethane to offer

The bioenergy industry is highly diversified and therefore, a more holistic approach to the sector is needed.

Hence, considering only biomethane in the plan represents just one fraction of the vast array of supply and potential of this sector which is supplied with feedstock from forests, agriculture, and the residues and waste management from several industries.

The affordability of bioenergy as a solution compared to other proposed solutions is not sufficiently laid out in the presented plan. Transparency on the true costs and carbon dioxide (CO2) savings of each option is required to assess short-term and long-term impacts.

During the past few months, bioenergy has only become more competitive, and it will continue to grow in Europe in all sectors of society: power production, industry, transport, agriculture, and heating.

On top of this, there is an unlocked potential for underutilized biomass. Residues from roadside management, parks, and forest management to mention a few should be cost-effectively utilized to produce renewable energy instead of being left to rot on the ground, or burned in uncontrolled open-field fires.

If Europe is serious about reaching higher renewable targets, it must put in place a clear strategy with ambitious, yet reachable objectives for each sector. In this context, the idea of limiting the support or even the use of primary woody biomass will only hinder our local renewable industry without guaranteeing further sustainability and biodiversity protection, ended Irene di Padua, Policy Director of Bioenergy Europe.

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