Technical Committee on Sustainable Biomass and Biofuels Meeting

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.” 

Coal-to-Biomass conversion in Germany

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.

Enervis Study in German.

RED on Sustainable Forest Biomass

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.

Bioenergy Europe

EU Taxonomy Webinars

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”

Registration for the events.


EU allows private investments into renewable energy

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.”

Further information:

The survey:

Expression of interest for participation in the Union renewable energy financing mechanism as a private investor

EU renewable energy financing mechanism

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/1294

Information according to (link).

The Biomass of European Forests

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.”

EC Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Recommendations

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”.

Details on the European Green Deal are here.

Electrification of the Heating Sector

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.

EC is Forming a New Industrial Forum

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.

The call for application can be downloaded here.

Further information can be found here.

Bioenergy Landscape 2020

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.


Bioenergy Europe

Bioenergy International

A New Industrial Strategy for Europe

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.

The report can be found here.

A short presentation (Italian) can be found here.

Switch4Air – Podcast for Bioenergy

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.”

European Forest Strategy

Information provided by Bioenergy Europe:

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.

Sustainable Finance Taxonomy

Information provided by Bioenergy Europe:

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.

Multiannual Financial Framework formed

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”.

For more inormation: LINK

The Effects of COVID 19 on Service and Third Party Maintenance in the Pellet Industries

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.

European Court of Justice Rules in Favor of Biomass

The European Court of Justice dismissed a case against wood biomass of individuals and NGOs from six countries (Case T-141/19). According to the court the case lacked standing to challenge the EU’s inclusion of forest biomass in the bloc’s Renewable Energy Directive.  

Plaintiffs from Estonia, France, Ireland, Romania, Slovakia and the US brought up claims that the EU’s biomass policy is destroying forests and increases greenhouse gas emissions. They argued the treatment of biomass as carbon neutral runs counter to scientific findings. According to the plaintiffs, burning wood for energy typically emits 1.5 times more CO2 than coal and 3 times more than natural gas. Whereas the general understanding is that wood biomass emitts only 25% of CO2 in comparison to fossil fuels (CO2 emissions from processing woody biomass).

Biomass makes up 60% of Europe’s renewable energies and is a vital contribution to the green goals.

The court described that arguments had no merit, since the contested directive “applies to all persons, both natural and legal. The applicants do not put forward any factor recognised by case-law which would be capable of distinguishing them individually as addressees.” The plaintiffs acknowledged that the environmental protection “affects everyone in both current and future generations”. However, they did not argue how the directive sets them apart as natural and legal persons and infringes upon their rights as such.

The decision was welcomed by biomass association from both sides of the Atlantic. “Although this was a procedural ruling this was the right overall result, as the arguments put forward in the case had no value. The European institutions carried out an open consultation to gather scientific and environmental advice and considered these during the legislative process. The result was a revised Renewable Energy Directive that set out rigorous standards for the inclusion of sustainable biomass in the European energy mix,” USIPA executive director Seth Ginther commented the decision.

Biomass’ Role in Europe’s Green Deal

This is the content from my article in the Pellet Mill Magazine published March 24th 2020.

Along with the Green Deal, the European Commission announced a very ambitious goal: Climate Neutrality by 2050.

Along with the Green Deal, the European Commission announced a very ambitious goal: Climate Neutrality by 2050. A Just Transition Fund of up to 100 trillion euro will help companies become world leaders in clean products and technologies, ensuring a just and inclusive transition, while protecting humans, animals and plants by cutting pollution. But what role does biomass play in the future of Europe’s renewable energy policy, and how can pellet producers influence their future involvement?
The European Commission introduced the European Green Deal in December 2019. The EGD is a roadmap of key policies and measures aimed at answering the call for action in regard to climate change. It is part of the commission’s strategy to realize the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda. Climate neutrality in the context of EGD means no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050, and the decoupling of economic growth from use of resources. The elements of the EGD span from accelerating the shift to sustainable and smart mobility to zero pollution. This includes clean, affordable energy with a risk-free baseload of renewable energies, energy efficient heating and cooling, and sustainable materials management (circular economy). To improve the quality of life, the EGD includes the goal of a healthy and environmentally friendly food system.

Figure 1 Elements of the EGD, Communication from the European Commission Dec. 2019

As an integral component to reach the ambitious goals, the European Commission will implement a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan, including a “Just Transition Fund.” The fund’s mechanism is to align and minimize the negative effects of structural changes, especially befitting regions that strongly rely on fossil fuels and carbon-intensive processes, as they will be aided in reskilling programs and energy-efficient housing, and also receive support for low-carbon activities.

Financing of the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan is still unclear

The European Commission places its trust in the private sector as a key financier of the green transition. The European funds will lay the foundations for sustainable investments, facilitating the identification of sustainable investment opportunities and integrating climate risks into the financial system. This offers opportunities, especially for large renewable energies corporations, since the bureaucratic efforts to receive grants are substantial and might scare off small- and medium-sized companies. On the other hand, large providers are the ones able to deliver guaranteed base loads.

Europe’s bioeconomy in numbers

The European Commission’s Knowledge Center for Bioeconomy acknowledges that biomass energy is one of the main sources of renewable energy in the EU. In total, renewable energies contributed 17% (195,476 oil equivalent kilotons) of the EU’s gross energy consumption for 2016. Bioenergy contributed 59.2% thereof (12% transport fuels, 13.4% bioelectricity and 74.6% biomass). Although EU domestic biomass supply for primary energy reached 140 MTOE (million metric tons of oil equivalent) in 2016 and is planned to reach 178 MTOE by 2020, growth has been much slower than foreseen. Additionally, there are knowledge gaps in statistics, reporting and data collection on biomass supply, trade and use.

According to the Statistical Report 2019 of Bioenergy Europe, in 2016, bioelectricity accounted for 5.6% of EU’s gross electricity generation. Renewable biofuels for transportation had a market share of approximately 5%. Biomass for heating and cooling reached around 23%. Thereof, residential heating accounted for 50% of the final bioheat consumption. Finally, wood pellet consumption reached 27 million tons in the EU in 2018, 16.8 million tons of which were used for heating.

The European bioenergy landscape is diverse and scattered. Some countries suffer turf wars of industry associations or lack strategy. Compared to fossil fuels, renewables are still a small player in the market and have enormous growth potential. If the European Commission achieves one thing with the EGD, it will be sending an impulse to the markets to focus on renewables and step up efforts to grow these industries and overcome the sometimes very slow development process (e.g., the German onshore and offshore wind power industry). Associations need to align their energy and improve their educational portfolio for politicians. In 2020, the European Commission and other bodies will be busy reviewing and revising relevant energy legislation, especially clean, affordable and secure energy. The European Commission will conclude its assessment of the final National Energy and Climate Plans by June, in addition to setting a strategy for smart sector integration, renovating the building sector and determining other energy regulations. This is an unmatched opportunity for associations and corporations to bring in their expertise, ideas and demands and leave a remarkable footprint in Europe’s future renewable energy policy.

Pellet Mill Magazine Article

Germany’s Carbon Mitigation Plan With Biomass

This is the content from my article in the Pellet Mill Magazine published Dec. 11th 2019.

The potential of combined-heat-and-power plants, especially with organic Rankine cycle, can turn the tides in favor of biomass as a key part of Germany’s energy transition.

The German Renewable Energy Act (EEG) of 2000 succeeded in boosting development of renewable energy such as solar and wind power. The feed-in tariffs guaranteed a fixed income for electricity producers, thus attracting investors, and helped the industries grow exponentially. In late September, Germany published the new Climate Package. The goal is a reduction in CO2 emissions by 40% by 2020 compared to 2009, and by 55% by 2030. With such ambitious targets, it might be assumed that Germany implemented a biomass cofiring strategy, too. However, that’s not the case.

While other European countries such as the U.K., Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark subsidize cofiring, Germany is lacking feed-in tariffs for wood pellets and other biomass in coal plants.
Additionally, the CO2 price (EUA-Future)—an important lever for substituting fossil fuels with renewable energies—averaged the past 12 months at approximately 25 euros per ton (EUR/t). Experts point out the price for CO2 certificates should range between 50 and 130 EUR to be effective. The German Climate Package, however, sets the price at 10 EUR/t from 2021, with a systematic increase to 35 EUR/t by 2025. Unfortunately, this strategy does not support cofiring of biomass in coal power plants at all. If it did, demand would be substantial: At a cofiring ratio of 10%, Germany’s demand for wood pellets would exceed 7 million tons annually.

CO2 Mitigation Potential is Considerable
There is another problem. In 2012, about 150 plants globally operated using cofiring to reduce CO2 emissions, 30 of them in Germany. Yet, only 13 biomass power plants operated permanently, mainly with sewage sludge and waste materials. At the same time, the efficiency of conventional, subcritical pulverized coal-fired power plants was 36%, state-of-the-art coal power plants had an efficiency of 46%, and biomass power plants 25%.

Since 2012, the efficiency of biomass-fired power plants has improved from 25% to 36%, whereas state-of-the-art coal-fired power plants average 49% efficiency. Cofiring wood chips and wood pellets leads to a slight decrease in efficiency. Nevertheless, using torrefied biomass does not lead to an efficiency decrease, as it has comparable properties to coal. The main advantage of cofiring biomass is that it leads to up to 50% reduction in CO2 (7% with wood chips, 36% with industrial wood pellets and 50% with torrefied biomass). However, the total cost of cofiring significantly differs.

Table 1 Characteristics of biomass for co-firing

Cofiring wood chips leads to the lowest CO2 mitigation costs, but the investment costs for retrofitting a coal plant are substantial, the cofiring rate is limited, and thus, the overall CO2 mitigation potential is limited. Torrefied biomass, on the other hand, has a high cofiring rate and low retrofit investments. But due to high fuel prices and transportation costs, CO2 mitigation costs are substantial. Therefore, use of industrial wood pellets seems to be the most advantageous option, though all three cofiring options require subsidies or a higher CO2 certificate price.

Nothing New in Germany’s Biomass Power
The installed capacity and the actual electricity generation from biomass reflects the situation in Germany. In 2015, the installed biomass electricity capacity was 6,808 MW with an actual electricity production of 34,850 GWh (6.5% of total electricity production). In 2019, the installed capacity increased by 14% to 7,752 MW (with actual biomass electricity production in 2018 being 40,184 GWh, (7.45% of total electricity production). The share of biomass in Germany’s total electricity capacity did not substantially increase from 2015 (3.47%) to 2019 (3.48%) and remains marginal. (Federal Network Agency, SMARD, 2019.)

Figure 1 Installed capacity and actual electricity production in Germany.
Figure 2 Total installed capacity and actual electricity production in Germany.

Besides the missing EEG feed-in tariff and a low CO2 price, the most important barriers to cofiring biomass in Germany are the uncertain availability, a wrong interpretation of biomass in terms of energy use, and the already increased competition in the power market. With at least seven million tons of wood pellet demand when cofiring 10%, Germany’s risk of lack of supply is very high. Long-term contracts as seen in the U.K. could help de-risk the supply side. On the governmental side, there is a need for rethinking use of biomass in the power sector. Currently, cofiring biomass is led by waste and sewage sludge, and there are high licensing requirements. Biomass from wood chips and wood pellets would need to be treated differently than waste to reduce the licensing hurdles. Finally, German energy producers are still struggling with the nuclear power phase-out.

A study of Germany’s Energy Agency assumes that German coal plants could cofire up to 50% wood pellets without significant modifications to the existing equipment. Determined steps by German policymakers are necessary to benefit from CO2 mitigation potentials cofiring with biomass holds. The potential of combined-heat-and-power plants, especially with organic Rankine cycle, can turn the tides in favor of biomass as a key part of Germany’s energy transition.

Pellet Mill Magazine Article


Lüschen, A. / Madler, R., Economics of Biomass Co-Firing in New Hard Coal Power Plants in Germany, FCN Working Paper No. 23/2010.

Knapp et al., Energy, Sustainability and Society (2019),

Roni et al., Biomass co-firing technology with policies, challenges, and opportunities: A global review, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 78, 2017, p 1089 – 1101.

Hello Biomass Community!

Welcome to the Biomass Policy Blog. This is my first post, after

  • the WHO announced the Corona virus as a pandemic
  • the stock exchanges dropped dramatically
  • the United States announced a travel ban on Europe
  • the European Commission announced their European Green Deal

We have interesting times ahead…