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Bioenergy Europe welcomes report on sustainability of woody biomass for energy

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Bioenergy Europe has welcomed a report which calls for an ‘honest and explicit’ discussion to ‘detoxify’ the debate surrounding wood-based energy sustainability.

The report by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission on the use of woody biomass for energy production in the EU underlines that swift and robust implementation of REDII sustainability criteria will effectively minimise negative impacts associated with it. For the implementation to be optimal, the report suggests forest legislation and guidelines must be fit-for-purpose, properly enforced and monitored.

The JRC’s research confirms that a large portion of 49% of EU wood for energy input mix is represented by by-products from wood processing industries, bark, and post-consumer wood. While ‘primary wood’ represents 37% of the mix, this is mainly formed of treetops, branches, and other low-value streams.

These findings are consistent with the increasing synergies between the bioenergy sector and other forest-based industries, which are operating towards a circular use of sustainable raw materials.

By further breaking down the primary wood used in the bioenergy industry, the report underlines a little-known trend, according to Bioenergy Europe – at least half of stemwood used in the bioenergy sector comes from coppiced forests. This management practice, which is among the oldest, represents an important source of economic development for rural communities and areas in Mediterranean countries.

Bioenergy Europe still believes data availability could improve. The organisation trusts that the full implementation of the Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union will contribute to improved availability and quality of data on woody biomass uses.

Regarding the suggestion of lowering the exemption household1, for the implementation of the sustainability criteria, Bioenergy Europe believes that this should not be in scope of the upcoming review. The JRC report does not cover socio-economic aspects or take into account cost-compliance. It also does not provide information on how the modification of this threshold could discourage further investments in the sector, undermining the achievement of the transition.

Regarding the conclusions of the study on how to improve the sustainability criteria, Bioenergy Europe supports the protection of primary forests, highly biodiverse grassland, and highly biodiverse forests.

Jean-Marc Jossart, Bioenergy Europe’s secretary-general, said: “The bioenergy sector is proud to play a pioneering role in guaranteeing the sustainability of its supply chain. REDII sustainability criteria are the first step towards a holistic sustainability governance irrespective of final uses and geographical origin.”

  1. 29 (1) Installations producing electricity, heating and cooling or fuels with a total rated thermal input equal to or exceeding 20 MW, with the possibility for Member States to implement a lower threshold.