Romania ‘won’t prohibit wood for household heating’, energy minister says

A pile of fresh chopped fire wood near a block of flats in Romania, where centralised heating is often missing. Half of households in Romania use firewood for heating. [Sorin Vidis / Shutterstock]

Bucharest dismissed as “fake news” reports about a planned ban on firewood for heating. Rather, the government seeks to better define the regime for using biomass as an energy source, energy minister Virgil Popescu told EURACTIV in an interview.

Bucharest committed to regulate by 2023 the use of biomass for heating as part of Romania’s national recovery and resilience plan (NRRP) submitted to the European Commission earlier this year, Virgil Popescu told EURACTIV.

“But we will not prohibit the use of wood for household heating,” the energy minister insisted.

In recent weeks, news media in Romania reported about the government’s alleged intention to ban wood heating in 2023.

But Cristian Ghinea, who negotiated the NRRP as minister of European funds, said it is “fake news.”

In Romania, roughly half the population – more than 3.5 million households – use firewood for heating. So an outright ban on biomass heating seems unfeasible at this stage.

Instead, the government aims to develop the country’s gas network in order to provide more households with gas heating.

“I do not think there is a question of banning wood heating in Romania,” Popescu told EURACTIV. “As we develop the natural gas distribution networks, which we aim for, people will see that it is simpler, more convenient to use gas for heating than firewood,” he said.

Virgil Popescu pointed out that Romania can use money from the Modernisation Fund, a program launched by the European Commission to help the EU’s ten poorest member states upgrade their energy sector, to finance investments in modern biomass energy projects.

EU eyes tighter rules for 'renewable' biomass energy

The European Union is considering tightening rules on whether wood-burning energy can be classed as renewable and count towards green goals, according to a draft document seen by Reuters on Wednesday (16 June).

Romania aims for 30.7% of its energy consumption in 2030 to come from renewable sources, but environmental activists and the green energy sector consider the target insufficient.

“We have a history of assuming targets and generally meeting them,” said Popescu, adding that the figures of 2030 could be closer to the demands of green energy supporters.

“As long as we have the Modernisation Fund at our disposal, I do not see why we would not speed up the process.”

In fact, Popescu noted that there is a special line for biomass financing in the Modernisation Fund.

“We are not against the use of biomass, we are against cutting down forests. We won’t cut the forest to make firewood, but we can use wood waste, waste from other crops, for heating,” he said.

Popescu remarked that a Norwegian investor recently came to Romania to discuss plans of investing €800 million in the production of pellets from various types of biomass sources as a way to replace coal.

“Any investment that produces less CO2 emissions, that leads to the production of cleaner energy, is welcome in Romania,” Popescu concluded.

'Enough with the burning': EU executive accused of sacrificing forests

The European Commission has been accused of “sacrificing forests” after it published proposals that would allow trees to continue to be burned for fuel. EURACTIV’s media partner, The Guardian, reports.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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