Bioenergy has significant potential to reduce fossil fuel reliance in cities, new study finds

Bioenergy has the significant potential to become a pillar in the future energy portfolio of cities, according to a new report by the World Bioenergy Association (WBA).

The new study from World Bioenergy Association addresses the challenges cities are facing within the global climate mitigation policy and explains the contributions biomass can offer to reduce the use of fossil fuels in cities.

According to the report, biomass is a proven renewable and cost-competitive source of on-demand energy to replace fossil fuels in the supply of heat, partly in the transport sector and in generation of electricity.

The study describes how seven European cities are integrating bioenergy into their urban energy systems.

The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, energy security and development of new jobs in Europe are key arguments in favour of bioenergy for these cities, according to the report.

‘Transition to green growth’

“In a post COP21 Paris environment, decision makers in cities are faced with realities. The era of fossil fuels supplying the energy demand for cities is fast fading away,” said Heinz Kopetz, president of WBA.

“Mayors from cities all over the world are making plans to transition to a green growth. In such a scenario, bioenergy along with other renewables plays a crucial role in this transition. These seven European cities are showing how it is done and lessons learnt can easily be replicated.”

Biomass availability

The report highlights that biomass feedstock is growing. Whereas the European natural gas production is declining, the European forests are growing. The forests cover 179 million hectares of land, or 45% of the total land area; in the period from 1990 to 2010, the forest cover grew by 4.9%, which is around 7 million hectares.

Only 62% of the annual increment is used, and so the live wood volume increases year by year. If necessary, an additional 290 million m³ wood could be harvested annually from forest for wood supply without decreasing the live wood volume below its replacement.

The forest area is growing and also the pellets production is growing steadily. Over the last ten years, from 2004 to 2014, global pellet production grew by 21% annually, from 4 million tonnes to 27.1 million tonnes. In 2014, the main producing regions are Europe with 16.2 million tonnes, and North America with 8 million tonnes.


Elsewhere, the report highlights that cities such as Stockholm, Sweden, are pioneering cities in relation to integrating their bioenergy systems with their urban energy systems.

The report states that 80% of Stockholm’s district heating is supplied by renewable energy and 20% of its transport sector is supplied by renewables.

Separately, the report stresses that the decision makers in cities dealing with the issues of the sources of future energy supply should consider certain key criteria:

• Impact on greenhouse gas emissions
• Security of supply
• Regional development by regional energy solutions

All these criteria favour solutions based on biomass and other renewables, the report stated.

In a statement, the WBA said: “Cities should take into account these criteria and direct all new investment toward renewable energy solutions and improved energy efficiency, and avoid new investment in fossil structures.”

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