Biomass in Europe

Ausilio Bauen


Energy, environment, agricultural and forestry-based drivers are contributing to a rediscovery of bioenergy in industrialized nations with access to biomass resources. In fact, bioenergy offers the possibility to harness a domestic, rural-based, low — carbon and sustainable energy source in both industrialized and developing coun­tries. Currently, commercial and noncommercial uses of biomass represent about 13.5 per cent of the world’s primary energy consumption (see also Figure 1.1).

In the European Union (EU), bioenergy comprises some 3.5 per cent of the total primary energy mix. Figure 2.1 shows the primary energy consumption in the European Union, including details of renewable energy sources. Notably, biomass is the largest renewable energy source in the European Union. The biomass resources commonly used in the EU are fuelwood, wood residues from the wood-processing industry, used wood products (e. g. demolition wood), and also straw in some countries. Various modern technologies are being applied.

Bioenergy is intrinsically linked to energy, environment, agriculture and forestry issues. As such, it receives consideration within international and national renewable energy, as well as environment, agriculture and forestry policy agendas. Unfortu­nately, there is a lack of integration across these policy agendas, which hinders the understanding of constraints affecting bioenergy, and the convergence of incentives to promote it, ultimately delaying its development.

Two fundamental questions related to the development of bioenergy options are: (i) what biomass conversion technologies and end-uses will present the most favorable economic and environmental options in the future energy mix; and (ii) what amount of biomass resources will these options require? Options range from heat and power production to liquid-fuel substitutes, but opinions vary widely on their potential contribution to future energy mixes and with regard to the appropriate resources, technologies and scales that are to be applied.

Questions as to which short-term bioenergy options are practical, and where the opportunities lie for establishing markets for biofuels and bioenergy technologies

19 Bioenergy — Realizing the Potential

© 2005 Dr Semida Silveira Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Nature! Gas 328.3%


Figure 2.1. Total primary energy mix in Europe (EU 15). Source: European Commission (2001a).


in the near future are key to further development in this area. Also, it is important to verify how short-term developments fit with the potential long-term role envisaged for biomass in the energy mix. Interesting short-term markets for bioenergy appear to exist for cofiring with coal, district and small-scale heating, combined heat and power and blending of biofuels with petroleum transport fuels. Long-term options could be biomass use for heat and power generation in integrated gasification combined cycle plants and for the production of new fuels such as hydrogen.

This chapter briefly discusses the bioenergy potential in Europe and some of the energy, environment and agriculture cross-cutting issues that are relevant in the definition of coordinated action for bioenergy in the European context. Climate change issues and long-term policies for renewables are likely to have a significant impact on the development of bioenergy and these issues are, therefore, particularly addressed.

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