IEECP highlights potential of community-led bioenergy projects

Several barriers prevent citizens from becoming bioenergy producers, according to the Institute for European Energy and Climate Policy (IEECP), based in the Netherlands.

In a statement published on 15 December, the IEECP said there is a lack of preparedness for communities to tap the full bioenergy market potential, lack of bioenergy stakeholders’ awareness of the potential of communities and missing or unsupportive (local, regional, and national) framework and policy conditions.

In the updated Renewable Energy Directive II (RED II), the EU considers community energy as a key factor for the renewable energy market uptake and mandates member states to implement regulatory frameworks for enabling and facilitating this process.

According to the IEECP, for a people-powered energy system, the Horizon 2020-funded project BECoop (2020-2023) aims at putting communities in charge of their local renewable bioenergy generation.

Although ‘significant’ progress has been made in the EU towards a more effective clean-energy transition, there is still an increasingly uneven penetration rate of renewable energy across energy sectors, said the organisation.

There is a slow penetration in the EU heating and cooling sector, which accounts for 51% of the EU’s total energy consumption, and is expected to account for the largest share of demand by 2050. Understanding the need to accelerate efforts, the EU has adopted a target for a 1.3% annual increase in renewable heat in the next decade.

The IEECP believes bioenergy holds the highest potential, in practice, for replacing fossil fuel heat and remains the ‘leading’ technology in the EU renewable energy heating sector. The expansion of bioenergy projects across Europe would be of ‘crucial importance’ for meeting the EU-established targets.

Aside from scientific and technological innovations, renewable energy uptake also relies on peoples’ perceptions, according to the organisation. Energy communities and cooperatives (RESCoops) provide an ‘ideal framework’ as they can empower a more effective, fair, and democratised clean-energy transition, helping to fight climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing in mitigating energy poverty, support job creation, energy supply security, and more.

The IEEPC said community bioenergy schemes can play a ‘catalytic role’ in the market uptake of bioenergy heating technologies, though deployment remains significantly slow. While there are numerous energy cooperatives established across Europe, the majority focuses on solar and wind energy, with biomass-based communities accounting for a minor share of existing RESCoops.

“There is a clear need for unlocking and activating the underlying market potential of community bioenergy, and that is exactly what BECOop, a new Horizon 2020-funded project, aims to do,” said IEECP.

“The ambition of BECoop is to foster a broad deployment of bioenergy heating technologies across Europe, by providing the necessary conditions, technical as well as business support tools, and by boosting demand and de-risking bioenergy investments.”

The project aims to make community-led bioenergy projects more appealing and to foster new links and partnerships among the international bioenergy community.

“The project will investigate and specify the community bioenergy market uptake facilitators and barriers and, building upon this information, further empower policymakers to introduce enabling frameworks for community bioenergy.

“Four pilot cases across Europe (Spain, Greece, Poland, Italy) will target existing energy communities seeking to include bioenergy heating projects (district heating, pellet stove, forest biomass), and local/national authorities, aiming at initiating novel bioenergy community structures in support of their clean energy transition goals.

“The selected cases represent diverse framework conditions, community bioenergy maturity, renewable energy penetration in the heating and cooling market, and socioeconomic environments, thus, providing a highly complementary synthesis of evidence.”

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