Written by Gregor Erbach,
Bioenergy, which is generally produced from plants such as agricultural crops or trees, comes in various forms. Wood and other solid biomass are commonly used for heating and electricity generation. Liquid biofuels for transport and other purposes are mainly made from food and feed crops, but can also be produced from waste and residues. Bioenergy can also be delivered in the form of gas. Bioenergy is a renewable but finite energy source, and considered as climate-friendly because the carbon which is emitted during combustion was removed from the atmosphere during growth of the biomass and will be removed again after some time if new plants are grown. However, its production and use has environmental impacts and the climate benefits may vary.
The existing Renewable Energy Directive sets mandatory sustainability and greenhouse gas saving criteria for biofuels. For forest biomass, the Commission issued recommendations, but these are not uniformly implemented in the Member States. In November 2016, the Commission proposed a revised Renewable Energy Directive which includes mandatory sustainability criteria for both biofuels and biomass.
The European Parliament supports sustainability criteria for bioenergy, and highlighted the sustainability issues of forest biomass in its June 2016 resolution on renewable energy.
Stakeholder reactions to the Commission proposal have been mixed. While environmental NGOs called for stricter criteria, the bioenergy industries warned that tighter limits on conventional biofuels hinder the decarbonisation of the transport sector. Farmers and forest owners expressed concern about additional economic and administrative burden and stressed the principle of subsidiarity in forest policies.
Read the complete briefing on ‘EU sustainability criteria for bioenergy‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.
Listen to podcast ‘EU sustainability criteria for bioenergy‘