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EU says no ‘improvising’ on biomass cap


June 16, 2015
By Argus Media

Brussels, 16 June — The EU cannot "improvise" on a cap for biomass use, energy and climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete told Argus. 

“You have to do lots of research and come to final legislation that gives industry assurances for investment,” he said. “We cannot improvise on these things. We are going to take a two-year period to develop the renewables energy policy in which biomass will be included.”

The EU will launch a new renewable energy package including biofuels and biomass in two years, he said. The commission must reflect on its past experience of examining the problem of indirect land use change (ILUC). ILUC occurs when biofuel production displaces agricultural production to previously non-cropland such as grasslands and forests. The EU has approved a limit of 7pc on food-based biofuels to deal with the problem.

A group of 10 environmental organizations in April called for the EU to introduce a cap limiting the use of biomass for energy production to levels that can be “sustainably supplied”.

The nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) also want “correct” carbon accounting for biomass, comprehensive and mandatory sustainability criteria and optimal use of biomass resources, according to principles of cascading use.

The commission sees strong development of the renewable heating sector, driven mainly by “low-cost biomass option” in Sweden, Finland and Bulgaria, as a key driver for EU member states reaching and exceeding their interim targets for renewables.

But the commission notes that wind power generation more than tripled in 2005-14. Wind has become the second-largest contributor to renewable electricity after hydropower, taking over biomass. 

The commission expects the share of biomass to decrease because of the faster deployment of other renewables.

European biomass association Aebiom has denounced the proposal for a cap on solid biomass, saying it harms bioenergy’s reputation, just as the controversy over ILUC did. This would stifle growth in the biomass market, the group said. EU officials have said, privately, that a cap on biomass may be politically contentious. Limiting biomass consumption could be seen as setting a limit to the growth of EU renewables. 

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