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Sustainable Biomass

Update: July 2015

Sustainability Criteria for the Use of Solid Biomass and Biogas


The Renewable Energy Directive [2009/28/EC] sets up sustainability criteria for biofuels and bioliquids (see more here). In addtion the directive mandates the European Commission to consider requirements for a sustainability scheme for biomass other than biofuels and bioliquids.
On 25 February 2010, the European Commission (EC) published a report on sustainability requirements for the use of solid biomass and biogas in electricity, heating and cooling (here). The report makes recommendations on sustainability criteria to be used by those Member States that wish to introduce a scheme at national level. It constitutes a guide for European countries that will make it easier to trade within the EU market.

The recommended criteria relate to:
- a general prohibition on the use of biomass from land converted from forest, other high carbon stock areas and highly biodiverse areas;
- a common greenhouse gas calculation methodology which could be used to ensure that minimum greenhouse gas savings from biomass are at least 35% (rising to 50% in 2017 and 60% in 2018 for new installations) compared to the EU's fossil energy mix;
- the differentiation of national support schemes in favour of installations that achieve high energy conversion efficiencies; and
- monitoring of the origin of biomass.

It is also recommended not to apply sustainability criteria to wastes, as these must already fulfill environmental rules in accordance with waste legislation at national and at European level, and that the sustainability requirements should apply to larger energy producers of 1 MW thermal or 1MW electrical capacity or above.

The report is accompanied by a impact assessment that shows that binding targets would be costly for the EU, regarding that more than 90% of biomass consumed by the EU comes from European forest residues and by-products of other industries.

On 30 June 2010, UN Economic Comission for Europe (UNECE), FAO, the European Forest Institute (EFI) and other european institutions published a report that shows the real portential for changes in growth and use of EU forests.
It states that biomass can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions but it changes depending on the cultivation and production processes used.

For the implementation of the RES Directive 2009/28/EC, the European Member States submitted their National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAP) and implemented it at the end of 2010.
Following the submission of these plans and analysis of emerging national schemes, the Commission will consider whether additional measures such as common sustainability criteria at EU level would be appropriate.

According to the projections of the NREAP, solid biomass is expected to contribute a 12,7% to the total of renewable energy for electricity, and biogas 5,3%. Regarding to total renewable energy (includes electricity, heating and cooling and transport), the share of solid biomass is 5,4% and the share of biogas 2,2%.

The Report by the Energy Centre of Netherlands that summarizes the projections of the NREAP is available here (RE projections for all the countries in p.22-27; biomass projections : for electricity p.143-152, for heating p.165-170).

Read the National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAP) here.

In July 2014, The Commission published a report on the criterias for the use of solid and gaseous biomass.This report established on behalf of the European Parliament for the 2030 Climate and Energy Framework aims to propose specific criterias to ensure they respect sustainable requirement taking into account the emission of greenhouse gas emission.

Find out more information in the European Commission website.

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