The Paris Agreement’s goal of 1.5°C in focus, more than 40 countries pledge to phase out coal by 2040.
Coal without carbon capture, mitigation or set off is the most polluting fossil fuel. Coal is also very handy, as transport and storage are easy. This makes it more difficult to phase out and establish low-carbon alternative fuels. Sustainably sourced biomass feedstocks are such an alternative, as they can also be stored, transported and used easily whenever needed. The big difference is the carbon cycle. Fossil fuels took hundreds of millions of years to build and emmit carbondioxid without taking it up in the near future. Sustainably sourced biomass introduces new carbon into the biosphere like coal does. However, new growing trees store the amount emitted from burning. The additional carbon from processing and transport can be sett off with other instruments as they will rely on fossil fuels for some time. Some coal stations have been converted to operate on biomass, which improves the environmental footprint of these facilities significantly while saving jobs and keeping infrastructure costs low.
The housing industry has a huge carbon saving potential. Bioenergy is a useful way to remove coal and gas from the these energy systems without increasing energy security risks. Bioenergy makes an excellent base load compared to wind and solar, as it is available independent from the weather.
A coalition of thirteen wood bioenergy companies and organisations signed a declaration on sustainability. The declaration envisions the ambitious industry goals for growth to support the global net zero strategy. Existing wood bioenergy technlogies already help to deliver sustainable renewable energy and will further support the EU’s goals as the industry grows.
The signatories are well known companies from the woody biomass industries, siuch as
Drax is a vertically integrated power supplier with own wood pellet production facilities in the United States. The biomass subisidary is Drax Biomass.
Enviva Biomass is world’s largest supplier of sustainable woody biomass. The company operates several wood pellet plants in the United States with a focus on the South East.
Graanul Invest is the largest European wood pellet supplier. The company mainly operates in the Baltics. In the United States Graanul Invest produces wood pellets in their plant in Texas.
Fram Fuels is a US wood pellet producer with three facilities. The main source is sustainably grown white southern pine.
The United States Industrial Pellet Association is a non-profit trade association that promotes sustainability and safety practices within the US wood energy industries.
‘Fit for 55’ is the EU package delivering on the 2030 Climate Target to climate neutrality.
The EU has set ambitious targets for reducing net emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990. Reaching this goal targets on being the first climate neutral continent by 2050. The package of proposals is the approach to make the EU ‘fit for 55’ and deliver on the questions that arise with the goal. All share the benefits of more space for nature, cleaner air, cooler and greener cities. Thus, the opportunity to take action is open to all innovators and investors, companies and cities, consumers, households and individuals. The challenge is a swift green transition, while strengthening competitiveness, job creation and positive impacts of the transition.
The European Green Deal is the blueprint for transformational change. There is growing public support for climate ambition and action. The proposals fundament are policies and legislation the European Union has already put in place. The package is based on evidence. The 2030 Climate Target Plan assesses the opportunities and costs of the green transition, and showes that the balance is a positive one if we get the policy mix right.
The Fit for 55 Package alone is not enough and cannot deliver the global emission reduction the world needs. However, the EU remains committed to the multilateral global order and calls upon partners around the world to work together. The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (‘COP26’) in Glasgow in November 2021 is one of the events for global target setting.
“The Fit for 55 Package: At a glance
The Fit for 55 package consists of a set of inter-connected proposals, which all drive towards the same goal of ensuring a fair, competitive and green transition by 2030 and beyond. Where possible existing legislation is made more ambitious and where needed new proposals are put on the table. Overall, the package strengthens eight existing pieces of legislation and presents five new initiatives, across a range policy areas and economic sectors: climate, energy and fuels, transport, buildings, land use and forestry. The legislative proposals are backed by impact assessment analysis, which takes into account the interconnection of the overall package. The analysis shows that an over-reliance on strengthened regulatory policies would lead to unnecessarily high economic burdens, while carbon pricing alone would not overcome persistent market failures and non-market barriers. The chosen policy mix is therefore a careful balance between pricing, targets, standards and support measures. Support measures•Using revenues and regulations to promote innovation, build solidarity and mitigate impacts for the vulnerable, notably through the new Social Climate Fund and enhanced Modernisation and Innovation Funds.” European Commission
In the plenary session on June 7th, the European Parliament debated and passed the Biodiversity Strategy. The strategy is non-binding. However, it calls for revising and aligning EU rules on the use of biomass for energy production with the objectives of the Biodiversity Strategy. Amendment 17, which would have benefited bioenergy, failed. The Biodiversity Strategy is awaiting approval from the Council.
“The debate was opened by Rapporteur César Luena (S&D, ES) who began by thanking scientists, activists, NGOs, and young people. He argued that the text is well balanced and well negotiated and repeated the call for a binding biodiversity law. He argued that biodiversity and climate need to be solved together. He acknowledged that there are a lot of opinions on forest, and it is important to take them into account, but it is essential to protect primary and old growth forests. He concluded by saying any transition must be socially and environmentally sustainable.” comments Bioenergy Europe. And furthermore summarizes that “The debate concluded with the Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, who stressed the importance of recognising and supporting farmers, foresters, and fishermen to transition towards sustainability, but it is not possible to lower the ambition on protecting biodiversity to promote cooperation and inclusiveness. He argued that although forests in Europe have been increasing in quantity, they are under increasing pressure, so their protection is crucial. He concluded by mentioning that a new forest strategy will be presented in July.”
The technical committe will hold the next meeting on sustainable biomass and biofuels on 8th June 2021. The committee’s aim is to review the REDII Forest Biomass Operational Guidance. The supra-national bioenergy association Bioenergy Europe “encourages national associations to reach out to their governments in advance of the meeting if they have not done so to share Bioenergy Europe’s reply and their concerns.”
To convert coal power plants to biomass power plants, Germany requires contracts for difference (CfDs) to make them profitable under current market conditions.
Fuel costs hinder German power plants from being profitable when switching to biomass based raw material. In order to make the conversion profitable, Germany needs to introduce CfDs, as used in UK. CfDs have the advantage of minimising profitability risks and increasing the probability of investments.
“Enervis estimates electricity production costs at €105-120/MWh for a 10-year funding period if a plant is commissioned in 2026. Annual funding for plant is estimated at €33-46/MWh, depending on several factors, such as the location and capacity of the plant, fixed costs and others. The average annual funding is estimated at €37/MWh.
In addition, the development of wholesale power prices is a factor in determining funding needs. Power prices will depend on the development of CO2 prices. Under this scenario, CO2 prices are estimated at €44/t CO2e in 2030.” Argus Media
Implementing a coal-to-biomass strategy would increase the base load capacities of renewable energy in Germany.
Achieving EU climate goals and energy transition targets depends on forest bioenergy that is produced sustainably. Therefore, the 2018 Renewable Energy Directive introduces new sustainability criteria for biomass and biogas in heat and power that cover forest biomass, too.
Several associations have brought forward their concerns, amendment ideas and other input.
A guidance to enable robust and harmonised implementation of sustainability criteria for forest biomass is important. To prevent market barriers, it is crucial to interprete measures and timeliness in transposition and implementation coherently. We need to emphasize that this is not a sustainability issue, but rather an issue of the mechanisms and systems. The draft regulation in its current formulation, stretches the boundaries of the criteria according to the Renewable Energy Directive, by adopting several recommendations from the 2021 Joint Research Centre report on woody biomass. However, the inclusion of these criteria should be avoided as this would lower the momentum.
Link to the EC Draft Act. The deadline for inputs closes on 28th April 2021.
The EU is starting a series of webinars on taxonomy. The webinars are an opportunity to explore and discuss key concepts and possible future policy solutions related to the Platform on Sustainable Finance’s work. “Interested stakeholders will be able to engage on the approaches and key concepts developed by the Platform on Sustainable Finance so far and get an insight in the work process of the Platform.”
There will be five livestreams, exploring different aspects of the EU taxonomy:
“The first webinar will focus on the role the EU taxonomy can play in stimulating and mobilising finance for transition to environmental sustainability
The second webinar will discuss possible ways of extending the EU taxonomy framework beyond green activities
The third webinar will present some of main challenges and possible solutions with regard to taxonomy-linked data and corporate reporting and disclosure
The fourth webinar will offer an insight into the work process of the Platform in developing the EU taxonomy criteria for the remaining four environmental objectives (water, circular economy, pollution and biodiversity)
The fifth webinar will address the potential development of social taxonomy and give an insight into a possible structure of such taxonomy”
The EU allows investments from private investors to fund green tech. According to a survey, private entities are able to participate in the renewable energy financing mechanism. The European Commission opened a seven-point questionnaire that aims at providing indicative feedback on potential investors. The EU renewable energy financing mechanism is in the implementation phase.
Private investment are a cornerstone of the successful rollout of the European Green Deal. Private investors will have an equal opportunity to contribute to the mechanism. Their financial contributions count to the EU binding target of at least 32 % of renewable energy. There will be a link to projects with financial support from private investmors to the EU-wide green label. An additional incentive are possible guarantees of origins for the energy production corresponding to the private investment contribution. Guarantees of origin “could be issued for the renewable energy production in accordance with Article 19 of the directive and subject to the national legislation in the country hosting the project.” Private investors benefit from broadening their sustainability and decarbonisation portfolio and from diversifying their investment agenda.
All private entities, natural or legal persons, can express their participation interest. They can further indicate a preference for the tender procedure for which its payment is intended, or a type of technology that they wish to support.
“Replying to this questionnaire does not create any legal or financial rights or obligations either for the respondent or for the European Commission.”
The European Joint Research Centre (JRC) published an analysis on the European forests and their biomass potential.
Europes bioeconomy is highly relying on forest biomass as a relevant source of energy and raw material. However, the biomass stock data are poorly harmonized and need an update. The JRC Biomass Assessment Study recognized this need. This helps to understand the possible contribution of biomass stock in Europe to a sustainable bioeconomy. “The present report provides an overview of existing forest biomass data in Europe, describes the methodologies used to harmonize and compare them, and proposes an improved biomass map consistent with the forest inventory data.”
European countries have diverging forest and biomass definitions. The estimation periods are different and use various scales. A first step in the study was the harmonization of biomass data provided by the National Forest Inventories (NFIs). Furthermore, the biomass maps for forest definition had to be resonated. Finally, amendments lead to consistent data on forest areas and “biomass available for wood supply, using the same reference definition and common criteria to assess wood availability and related restrictions. The data harmonization produced a reference database of forest biomass in Europe, which includes statistics at sub-national scale and field plots, both harmonized for biomass pool and reference year.”
With the Biomass of European Forests database, uncertainties of the biomass maps at different spatial scales become visible. With the harmonized data it became clear that biomass maps have a relatively low accuracy at local scale. The result of the study is a biomass map of Europe at 1 ha resolution for the year 2010. This map is “in line with the reference statistics in terms of forest area and biomass stock.”
The European Commission published recommendations to the Member States’ Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plans. Here is the link to the recommendations for all countries.
As an example, the European Commission recommends Germany to foster a smart and diversified agricultural industry that is able to ensure food security. The industry shall further strengthen the actions taken to protect the environment and climate. All with respect to the climate-related goals of the Union. Societal concerns especially in rural areas are another improvement option. Considering the impacts of digitalization, innovation and sharing of knowledge is very important.
The recommendations are based on the framework of the structured dialogue for the preparation of the common agricultural policy (CAP) strategic plan. They follow the analysis of the “state of play, the needs and the priorities for agriculture and rural areas in Germany. The recommendations address the specific economic, environmental and social objectives of the future CAP”.
Early 2021, the European Joint Research Centre (JRC) published a paper on the electrification of heating and cooling. As a decarbonsation strategy, “the EL60 (32% heating and cooling electrified replacing fossil fuels) scenario seems to be the most ambitious electrification scenario that can be secured by today’s capacities”. However, based on the current capacities, this puts pressure on the grids particular in Austria, Finland and Latvia.
Many power systems can deal with higher heat and power demands from electrification of the sector. Especially heat pump capacity increases in the order of 1.1–1.6 TWth can be deployed. This would correspond to a heat pump share of 29–45% in space heating. 12 Member States could fully electrify without hickups. Three Member States could face some capacity issues, if they substitute 40–60% of fossil fuel technologies. An important enabler is the possibility to react to flexible electric demands.
The European Commission is forming a new Industrial Forum and calls for applications for the selection of members of the expert group.
The forum is part of the New Industrial Strategy for Europe. It is an inclusive and open mechanism for co-designing solutions with stakeholders. The task is to support the European Commission “in its systematic analysis of industrial ecosystems and in assessing the risks and needs of industry as it embarks on the digital and green transition, and the strengthening of its resilience.”
“The expert group will also contribute to the coordination of recovery efforts, as a forum for EU countries and industry to exchange best practices to transform industrial ecosystems.”
The Industrial Forum shall have up to 55 members from
A) Group C members
Industrial associations, NGOs, R&T organisations, trade unions and representatives of the financial and investment industries.
B) Group D members
National or regional EU member authorities.
C) Group C members
The European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
This current call concerns applications for type C members. Applications must be filed by January 4th to this email address. The inaugural meeting of the Industrial Forum is planned for January 2021.
In 2018, biomass accounted for 10 % of gross final energy consumption within the EU28. Bioenergy saved 310 million tons of CO2eq. 56.6 % of the EU’s total renewable energy consumption is covered by bioenergy. This underlines that the renewable energies industries are vital for the European energy system.
Bioenergy usage has more than doubled since 2000. It contributes to all final usage forms of energy – heat, electricity and transport. Bioenergy is currently the largest renewable source in Europe and will remain so in the future. Thus, the industry is an “indispensable and unavoidable” companion of the European energy system.
The main sources for bioenergy are agricultural feedstock and forest streams. Since bioenergy is labor-intensive, jobs in solid biomass, biofuels, biogas and renewable municipal waste add up to 708,600 jobs and more than 50,000 business units. The turnover in bioenergy added up to EUR 57.6 billion in the EU-28. As a leader in bioenergy technologies and exporter of equipment and solutions, Europe strongly contributes to making the industry resilient to variances in the global value chains and national market distortions.
With ambitious climate goals for 2050, renewable energy sources are an important piece of Europe’s energy consumption mix. The report stresses that only an “ambitious and stable policy framework” can ensure the energy transition. The fundament must be set now, with renewable sources being the backbone of the EU energy mix.
MEP Calenda brought forward a report on “A New Strategy for Europe”. The motion supports the development of a renewables value chain, especially for strategic considered industries for the EU. The European Parliament voted in favor.
Switch4Air is a podcast powered by Bioenergy Europe in collaboration with the European Pellet Counsel, the voice of the European wood pellet sector, covering especially biomass in heat application.
“The heating and cooling sector is responsible for 36% of GHG emissions and represents 40% of energy consumption in the EU. Moreover, almost 80% of H&C consumption is provided by fossil fuels. It is essential that higher RES penetration and increased energy efficiency become the key drivers behind the process of decarbonization – a process that must include bioheat, a readily available, affordable, and efficient solution. But, to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, coherent measures and policies fostering real change must be implemented to immediate effect. The Switch4Air campaign has been developed to raise awareness on how bioenergy industry can contribute to the improvement of air quality.” www.switch4air.eu
European Forest Strategy – Council Conclusions on Forest Strategy were backed by Farm Ministers on November 16th 2020. The Conclusions call on the Commission to come up with a post-2020 plan for the sector that serves wider policy aims on environment & climate, and is coherent with other long-term strategies and forest-related policies after 2020. They further call for a new “balanced & strengthened” post-2020 Forest Strategy. They emphasize the importance of healthy and resilient forests to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the implementation of the European Green Deal. Member States also support an approach that addresses the environmental, financial & social dimensions of sustainability, taking into account the diversity of European Forests. They call on the EU’s executive to consider the SDGs as the overall guiding principle for the new EU Forest Strategy, while also taking into account the Green Deal as the new policy framework at EU level. The new Strategy needs to address the resilience & adaptation to climate change of established European forests, through sustainable management. It should also enhance the sector’s contribution to the bio- & circular economy, creating more green jobs and viable rural areas.
Together with the main forest-based industries association (CEPF, EUSTAFOR, COPA COGECA, EOS, CEPI) Bioenergy Europe has signed a joint letter asking the European Commission not to further delay the publication of the Forest Strategy. According to the EU Green Deal the new EU Forest Strategy was expected to be published in 2020. The Commission decided to postpone its publication to Q1 2021 (this is part of the Commission work programme) but at the same time they have adopted the EU Biodiversity Strategy.
The European Commission published the Draft Delegated Act and Annexes including the sustainability requirements this week (Nov. 2020). A group of member states (including Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary) sent a non-paper letter to the European Commission stressing that: “Taxonomy Regulation stipulated as one of its main principles that the delegated regulation being developed must be based on the most recently agreed and enforced EU legislation to ensure the consistency with sectoral legislations and maintain investor certainty in the sectors. In the case of bioenergy, this is the current Renewable Energy Directive (EU 2018/2001).” The letter further underlined that the criteria for sustainable biomass cannot be credibly assessed at this stage as they are not yet implemented.
With a group of forest based Industry EU associations (Copa-Cogeca – EUSTAFOR – State Forests, CEPF – Confederation of European Forest Owners and EOS – Sawmill Industries) Bioenergy Europe sent a joint paper on the issue of Whole trees to Cabinets and relevant Commission.
With a group of 10 Renewable Energy Associations (European Biogas Association, European Geothermal Energy Council, European Heat Pumps Associations, European Renewable Energy Federation, ESTELA- Concentrated Solar Power Association, EUREC, European Ocean Energy Association, Solar Heat Europe, Solar Power Europe) Bioenergy Europe signed a joint letter asking for RES representation in the Sustainable Finance Platform.
On Tuesday 10th November 2020, the European Parliament and the Member States agreed on the design of the Multiannual Financial Framework for the period 2021-27 and the Next Generation EU Fund. The whole package consists of a total of EUR 1.8 trillion.
More than 50% of the fund will support modernization through policies including innovation and research (Horizon Program). 30% of the EU funds will be spent to fight climate change.
President Ursula von der Leyen said: “I welcome today’s agreement on our Recovery Plan and the next Multiannual Financial Framework. We now need to move forward with finalising the agreement on the next long-term budget and NextGenerationEU by the end of the year. Help is needed for citizens and business badly hit by the coronavirus crisis. Our recovery plan will help us turn the challenge of the pandemic into an opportunity for a recovery led by the green and digital transition”.
The COVID 19 pandemic is putting stress on many industries. Wood pellets and animal feed are not affected by business lockdowns, due to classification as “essential critical infrastructure’. However, the crisis is exacting its toll. Distancing regulations, sanitary regulations and entrance restrictions complicate the daily business.
Wood pellet producers contribute essentially to the global energy demand with climate neutral renewable fuels that ensure base load heating and power. Therefore, wood pellet producers are identified as “essential critical infrastructure workforce”. Usually, wood pellet plants require a substantial plot area for scales, storages, production, administration and workshops. A typical 100k tpa wood pellet plant has an operating labor requirement of 10 to 14 day shifts and 4 to 6 night shifts. Thus, distancing regulations under normal operating conditions are easily met. A German wood pellet producer did not postpone the annual revision. The plant published the standards regarding health protection by the government. Additionally, it is addressing staff and third parties with intensified sanitary regulations. The PPE has been extended to disinfectants and facemasks. Every third party has to wait at the scale for companion by an employee. Offices can be entered only with prior announcement and safety orientation takes place in a separate area outside. Additionally, third parties have separate sanitary and lounge areas. An issue arises with accommodation. Since most hotels and restaurants are closed, the choice is limited. Hotels offer night’s stay only with proof of business in the area and have limited catering. Most restaurants are closed which complicates provisioning. Luckily, our Bathan service staff sees great solidarity and understanding, and is a warmly welcomed guest at the plant.
A glimpse into the animal feed industry
Animal feed producers use the same equipment as wood pellet producers. The pellet diameter for cattle ranges between 6 and 10 mm (0.24 to 0.4 in), for poultry between 2 to 6 mm (0.08 to 0.24 in). The raw materials however, are much softer and the production rate is up to 140 t/hr (e.g. CPM 9950). Animal feed producers are used to work under the current sanitary regulations, so not much has changed. The plants operate according to the preventive approach to food safety “Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points” (HACCP) and use H1 certified food grade lubricants. The lubricants have to comply with FDA no. 21 CFR 187.3570 for lubricants with incidental food contact, and must be MOSH/MOAH free. Kunz Kunath, one of the largest animal feed producers in Switzerland, operating three Buhler pellet mills in Burgdorf, had the best monthly revenue in March 2020 in the company’s almost 100 years history. Due to COVID 19, many farmers were anxious and bought many times their usual volumes, which lead to 24/7 production in Burgdorf for the whole month of April to refill storages. The plant has a high level of automation, and therefore can easily comply with distancing regulations. Meetings, proceedings and visits have been postponed or held virtually. Stress on the equipment and machines is relatively small compared to wood pellet production. Therefore, third party services and maintenance can be postponed more easily. In these hectic times, longer relubrication intervals and significantly longer service life of roller bearings are key performance improvements.
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