Canadian Biomass Magazine

Europe clarifies bioenergy sustainability criteria

December 2, 2016
By The European Biomass Association

Dec. 2, 2016 - After years of discussions, the European Commission has now proposed legislation on sustainability criteria for all bioenergy uses. This represents a major outcome for the entire European renewables industry and for the EU’s climate and energy targets, as bioenergy represents 60 per cent of all European renewable energy consumption.

For Didzis Palejs, President of the European Biomass Association (AEBIOM), “This proposal is an important step for the European bioenergy industry, which has been calling for an EU harmonised policy over the past years.”

The European Commission’s proposal took a pragmatic approach considering some ground realities faced by many European bioenergy players. Proposing sustainability requirements for installations over 20 Megawatt capacity, endorsing a risk-based approach for forest biomass and allowing the possibility to recognise voluntary schemes are among the crucial aspects considered by the proposal.

The European Commission also opted for a rational land-based sustainability approach per type of biomass (biomass from forestry, biomass from agriculture, etc.) and not per energy use. “As wood can be used to make biofuels or produce heat and electricity, the Commission’s approach addressing sustainability of forest biomass, whatever its energy end use, makes sense,” claimed President Palejs.

However, AEBIOM regrets that this approach has not been followed for defining a single greenhouse gas emission savings for all bioenergy. AEBIOM is also concerned that by giving flexibility to Member States in defining additional sustainability rules, the Commission’s proposal may not set an equal playing field for the whole sector. “I am very concerned that a lack of full harmonisation at EU level could hamper biomass trade and lead to unequal treatment among economic operators,” said Eric Vial, President of the European Pellet Council.


On biopower, AEBIOM notes the political rationale to account it towards the EU renewable energy target only if produced through high efficient cogeneration technology. However, this approach ignores the role that biopower could play to back up variable renewable electricity sources such as wind and solar. One can fear that it could open a backdoor to fossil fuels, in contradiction with EU decarbonisation objectives and commitments.

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