A European Commission report confirms the positive impact of bioenergy on climate and biodiversity

A report published by the Joint Research Center of the European Commission on 25 January 2021 confirms that bioenergy has a key role to play in tackling the two major environmental crises of the 21st century – biodiversity and climate – if biomass is sourced sustainably and used efficiently.

The report highlights that residues and by-products from the sourcing and processing of raw materials for wood products and wood received from forestry operations aimed to improve forest growth and quality play a significant role in energy production and contribute to sustainable forest management. A well-functioning bioenergy sector is vital for the development of bioeconomy and wood-based biochemistry in Europe. According to the authors of the report, the socio-economic aspects were not considered, which in turn would have highlighted the importance of wood-based bioenergy in guaranteeing rural development.

The authors have mapped the flows of wood material between different industries to determine the various woody biomass categories used in bioenergy. ‘Understanding the synergy and sequencing of material use between industries is extremely important before any analysis and assessment of bioenergy,’ commented Mihkel Jugaste, the Head of Quality and Certification Systems at Graanul Invest. According to Jugaste, this balanced report, which considers all positive and negative examples, is essential to guide a long-term policy and create stability and investment security.

The report recommends the adoption of sustainability criteria

To avoid potential risks related to biomass supply, the report recommends a rapid and comprehensive implementation of the sustainability criteria of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II), which would help to avoid negative trends in biomass sourcing. There is also a need to better explain the links between LULUCF (land use, land-use change, and forestry) and the Renewable Energy Directive, which would help to disprove possible allegations of carbon sequestration and double counting in the European Union.

The report also highlights possible areas where biomass should not be sourced and used in bioenergy, highlighting that avoiding these “no-go” areas will become increasingly important as the demand for biomass increases. An example of this is converted forest land to non-forest land or biomass from wetlands with high carbon stocks.

According to Mihkel Jugaste, the Head of Quality and Certification Systems, it is crucial to rely on local legislation and our region’s huge nature conservation network. In 2015, Graanul Invest also introduced additional audited measures to ensure that unsuitable biomass is not used. ‘The existence of restricted zones in nature conservation areas as buffers between special protection and strict protection areas, the existence of SBP and similar certificates and the good compliance of the Baltic legislation with the sustainability requirements of the Renewable Energy Directive preclude unsuitable biomass from reaching our plants.’

Graanul Invest calls on various stakeholders to support the adoption of the sustainability criteria of the Renewable Energy Directive to create a broad-based opportunity to demonstrate and, if necessary, improve the sustainability of biomass.