A 1.7 percent growth in primary energy production was observed in the EU in 2017, placing the gross consumption of solid biomass primary energy just below the 100 Mtoe threshold at 98.9 Mtoe. Heat consumption from solid biomass rose marginally by 1.4 percent over the past year to reach 79.9 Mtoe. This is mainly due to higher temperatures recorded over the year in the EU leading to lower demand for heating according to EurObserv'ER Solid Biomass Barometer 2018.
According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), 2017 was the fifth hottest year ever recorded in Europe. This has had a dampening effect on heat demand requirements. In its recently published Solid Biomass Barometer 2018, EurObserv’ER notes that heat used by final consumers only increased by 1 percent as compared to 2016 levels while gross solid biomass heat sold to heating networks has risen by 4.1 percent. The latter was driven in part by proactive biomass cogeneration policies in Finland, Denmark and Sweden.
Biomass power increased
Coal-fired power plant conversions, particularly in the UK, Finland and Denmark, has expanded by 2.9 percent. Combined with an increase in net electrical capacity in major producer countries and greater efficiency of existing capacities, this has led the production of biopower to reach 94.5 TWh.
Primary energy production from biomass sourced from EU also rose drastically by 10.5 percent. A slower pace of growth in terms of EU’s wood pellet output (6.2 percent) caused an increased reliance on imports, especially from the United States (US) and Canada.
In 2018, 95 percent of the gross inland consumption of solid biomass was sourced from the EU and 5 percent came from imports.
Developments in specific countries
The top three countries in terms of solid biomass consumption are Germany (12.4 Mtoe), France (10.8 Mtoe) and Sweden (9.3 Mtoe). But in relative terms, the three largest consumers of solid biomass energy in toe per inhabitant are Finland (1.519 toe), Sweden (0.956 toe) and Estonia (0.683 toe).
Germany remains the top producer in primary energy production and gross inland consumption with a slight increase of 0.1 Mtoe in production and the same amount consumed as in 2017. In Denmark, primary energy consumption continued to expand for the third year running leading to a 14.2 percent year on year rise.
This was stimulated by conversions of coal and gas-fired power plant to combined heat and power (CHP) as part of the country’s policy to attain carbon neutrality by 2050. Sweden, on the other hand, has encountered a contraction in biomass energy consumption but the sector is expected to pick up with new plants opening and action plans in line with its new ‘climate’ law.