Biomass heat a “sleeping giant”

Analysis of the National Renewable Energy Action (NREAPs) of European Member States by AEBIOM (the European Biomass Association) reveals that Europe could face biomass supply problems and that the development of biomass for heating might be undermined in quite a few countries, despite the fact that heat represents roughly half the final energy consumption in Europe.
Biomass heat a “sleeping giant”

To date, the European Commission has evaluated almost all NREAPs except those of Romania, Estonia, Poland and Hungary, and has sent letters to almost all EU members asking for clarification within the national REAPs, the responses to which will be put on the EC's transparency platform. In the meantime, AEBIOM has taken a closer look at the national renewable energy action plans, and its findings are not promising.

While half the energy consumed in Europe is used for heating –much of which could be met using biomass – some Member States appear to be holding back on biomass heat, and describing it as a "sleeping giant".

According to the NREAPs, the total expected contribution of bioenergy in 2020 will reach 138.5 Mtoe compared to 83.8 Mtoe in 2010, with biomass for heat representing the lion’s share of bioenergy reaching 85.8 Mtoe by 2020. However, most NREAPs focus on biomass for electricity generation, and AEBIOM considers the target for biomass heating”is far from ambitious considering that in 2008 there was around 64 Mtoe of biomass for heat produced (final energy)”. AEBIOM estimates that the EU could reach 124 Mtoe by 2020 if it put its mind to it.

“In order to exploit the existing biomass for heat potential, the member states should further develop favourable framework conditions to heating homes with modern wooden [sic] appliances such as pellet stoves, boilers, etc. and more cities should be equipped with district biomass heating”, says AEBIOM.

The biggest heat markets (biomass for households, district heating) are expected to be in Germany, Italy, UK and Sweden, while the large new bioelectricity markets will be focused in Germany, UK, Italy, Poland and the Netherlands. According to the NREAPs, EU power production using biomass will go from 6.8 Mtoe in 2005 to 19.7 Mtoe in 2020.

Nonetheless, AEBIOM warns that “EU Member States altogether did not plan enough biomass supply in Europe to reach their bioenergy target,” but is hopeful that, after the EC Commission’s evaluation of the NREAPs, Member States will reconsider putting more efforts into biomass production and mobilisation.

The analysis also shows that the EU member states are going to reach more than 10.45 % of renewable energy in transport, therefore exceeding the 10% target. Biofuels consumption should reach 29.1 Mtoe by 2020 (ethanol, biodiesel), or 88% of all the renewables in transport sector. The large new biofuels markets are expected to be in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Italy.

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