December 14, 2005

EU Launches Biomass Action Plan

The European Union is aggressively pursuing policies that will insure ample non-fossil fuel sources are developed over the next few decades. Below are excerpts from their Communication from the Commission of the European Communities.

Excerpts from the EU Biomass Action Plan:

Energy is key in helping Europe achieve its objectives for growth, jobs and sustainability. High oil prices put the spotlight on Europe’s increasing dependency on imported energy.

The Union needs to respond strongly to this challenge. The central importance of energy policy in helping Europe to meet the challenges of globalisation was confirmed by the Union’s heads of state and government at the informal Hampton Court summit in October 2005.

With this in mind, the Commission is carrying out a fundamental review of its energy policy. This will be the subject of a Green Paper in spring 2006, with three main objectives – competitiveness, sustainability and security of supply.

Essential elements of this policy are, within the context of stronger economic growth, the need to reduce energy demand; increase reliance on renewable energy sources, given the potential to produce them domestically and their sustainability; diversify energy sources; and enhance international cooperation. These elements can help Europe to reduce dependence on energy imports, increase sustainability and stimulate growth and jobs.

This action plan sets out measures to increase the development of biomass energy from wood, wastes and agricultural crops by creating market-based incentives to its use and removing barriers to the development of the market. In this way Europe can cut its dependence on fossil fuels, cut greenhouse gas emissions and stimulate economic activity in rural areas.

This communication sets out a coordinated programme for Community action, including measures to improve demand for biomass; improve supply; overcome technical barriers; and develop research.

EU biomass production potential

The first column of the table shows the quantities of EU-produced biomass used for energy purposes today. The following columns show the potential contribution in 2010, 2020 and 2030. The potential for 2010 is 2½ times the contribution today. The potential for 2020 is 3 to 3½ times the contribution today, and the potential for 2030 is 3½ to 4½ times that of today.
Forests, wastes and agriculture all make a big contribution to this potential for growth. The increase from forestry comes from an increase both in fellings and in the use of residues. The increase from agriculture is driven by the reform of the common agricultural policy.

Research priorities - transport biofuels

The main area of research is second-generation biofuels made from various biomass resources and wastes, e.g. bioethanol, biodiesel, DME. The technical feasibility of converting cellulose material (straw/wood) and organic wastes into bioethanol and biodiesel has been demonstrated. But costs need to be brought down and technology needs to be further developed and demonstrated for commercial-scale production (over 150 000 tonnes a year). If this can be done, second-generation biofuels should offer three major advantages:
• they will secure a higher market share for biofuels by allowing the use of a wider range of raw material;
• the cultivation process (if any) could be less environmentally intensive than for ordinary agricultural crops;
• this lower intensity will be reflected in lower greenhouse gas emissions from cultivation.

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