AEBIOM weighs in on post-2020 bioenergy policy

By European Biomass Association | May 10, 2016

The European Biomass Association (AEBIOM) welcomes the initiative of the European Commission to define a sustainable European Union bioenergy policy for the period post-2020, and to open up the debate through its public consultation. For years now, AEBIOM has been calling for the introduction of a European common sustainability framework for all bioenergy, to secure investments, to create a level playing field and to answer concerns on potential risks related to future developments. In order to contribute to the debate, AEBIOM, along with its members, has identified key aspects that could lay a solid and positive groundwork for the future EU sustainable bioenergy policy, such as a single greenhouse gas savings criteria for all bioenergy or a risk-based approach for forest biomass.

Overall a policy on sustainability might contribute to reinforce the sector. Developing such regulation is complex. It requires a balanced framework in order to take into account the actual situation on the ground as well as the current bioenergy sectoral diversity. In this context, according to Gustav Melin, AEBIOM’s president, “Sustainability is key for bioenergy. Therefore the initiative of the European Commission is an important step forward for the whole sector. However I am more concerned about the general climate surrounding the debate that may not fully reflect the actual and positive contribution of bioenergy towards the EU climate and energy objectives.”

All EU scenarios show that biomass is a major component of the EU 2020, 2030 renewable energy targets and 2050 decarbonisation objective. Key organizations, such as the International Energy Agency, have been reminding us during the past weeks that “Bioenergy has a key role to play in low carbon energy systems.” Bioenergy currently accounts for more than 60 percent of the overall EU renewables consumption. However, we must not forget that the sector still represents a small segment when compared to fossil fuels. It remains an industry populated by players of very different sizes and capacities, ranging from local SMEs and projects to larger producers and users. “Bioenergy is not only essential in reaching EU energy and climate targets, but is also a key sector for growth, jobs, innovation, energy security, energy affordability and a source of dynamism for rural areas across Europe. All these positive outcomes should be part of the debate when discussing sustainability aspects” for Eric Vial, President of the European Pellet Council (EPC is an AEBIOM network).

Therefore, AEBIOM urges the commission to adopt a pragmatic and effective approach when working on a future policy on bioenergy avoiding additional administrative constraints. “We should not lose sight of the big picture and avoid putting too much of a burden on renewables, while fossil fuels remain largely subsidized and subject to limited requirements. After the COP21 agreement, we should not risk hindering the dynamism of a key sector for Europe. In many cases, a decline of bioenergy will mean the stabilization of fossil energy uses,” Melin says.

Discussing the future of bioenergy and how to ensure its sustainability is relevant today and could send a positive signal to the relevant stakeholders by setting clear orientations and by providing market players with a long term vision. On the flip side, a negative signal could have a tremendous impact on the bioenergy sector, but also more broadly on the whole European renewable energy strategy.