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Will France meet its biomass energy targets?

Feb. 22, 2011, Perpignan, France – To meet planned biomass electricity generation capacity, pellet production in France must double by the end of 2012 to about 1 billion tonnes/year.


February 22, 2011
By Argus Media

Feb. 22, 2011, Perpignan, France – Doubts
continue over the ability of France to reach its biomass energy targets by
2020. A report by Paris renewable energy analysts GreenUnivers says that
biomass capacity will have to expand at a rapid pace to achieve the goals of
the French state.

“Several devices have been put in place to
boost the French biomass market, but this has happened at a speed which is not
fast enough to hit the targets for 2020,” the report says.

Questions over the ability of the French
biomass industry to secure enough wood feedstock are central to the industry's
uncertainty. The French authorities in France want to near-triple the size of
its installed generation capacity from biomass, from 1,052 MW in 2010 to 3,007
MW in 2020, of which 2,003 MW will be for electricity generation. The report
estimates that total subsidies will reach €170 billion ($233 billion) by 2020,
“with more private finance entering the game in 2011 at the expense of solar
energy.”

However, the report highlights a recurring
problem in French silviculture: the fractured nature of woodland and forest.
Around 40% of the 15.7 million ha of French forest remains dormant, often split
into small grids of forestland of only a few hectares. The result of under-use
of the forestland combined with wood demand means that France imports €6.3
billion/year of wood, more than 50% of which is used for fuel. “This situation
leaves the exploitation of French forestland costly and impedes the easy supply
of biomass facilities,” the report says.

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Other issues include the energy uses of
biomass. Although biomass is by far the largest renewable fuel in France, at
about 46% of the country's total renewable energy, around 95% of that use is
for heating. The vast majority is used by domestic heaters and stoves, but also
large-scale municipal systems. Boosting biomass electricity generation means
that stresses will be placed on industrial wood pellet production. Production
in France rose from 240,000 tonnes/year in 2008 to around 465,000 tonnes/year
in 2010. To meet planned generation capacity, pellet production must double
again by the end of 2012 to about 1 billion tonnes/year.

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