Environmental issues are currently one of the hottest problems in the European Union. This results from the fact that there is a general recognition that stopping climate change requires definite and urgent actions, as well as setting ambitious goals by all countries – not only European ones. One of the instruments used for achieving those goals is the EU energy policy, supporting the intensive development of renewable energy sources (RES). Development of RES is definitely the prerequisite for realising ambitious climate goals. However, does Europe use all the measures at its disposal?
Biomass is the oldest and most commonly available energy source. Biomass consists of residuals from houses, municipal services, agriculture, forestry, as well as residuals from the wood industry for example. The omnipresence, amount, and diversity of biomass determine its great potential for use not only in the production of electric energy but also for heating purposes and transport, as fuel bio-components.
In focusing on biomass as an energy source, some aspects are crucial for it to reach its potential.
Firstly, biomass as an RES has advantages which other similar sources lack – it is a stable and controllable source, so it can play an important role in assuring the appropriate level of energy security. It can therefore be a perfect complement to other renewable sources, like wind power plants or photovoltaics, where generation is completely dependent on current weather conditions. At the same time, energetic biomass combustion can be a support tool for those countries where the economy is based on fossil fuels and is transferring to a low-emission economy.
Biomass is key for realising climate goals and implementing elements of the circular economy. There is no better way of using organic industrial and agricultural residuals than as fuel for biomass combustion systems. The production of such biomass is the inevitable result of human activity. The optimal use for this raw material is system use – in the energy production process. It’s important to keep in mind that if such residuals are not used in an organised and regulated way, they are wasted or used for household purposes in an uncontrollable way, being much less efficient and environmentally friendly – for instance combusted in-house furnaces, thus not fulfilling the strict environmental standards compared to industrial plants.
It is also important to note that efficient and sustainable use of biomass sources brings significant advantages for local communities. Biomass plant investments contribute to job creation, as well as the development of the agricultural and post-industrial areas. Correctly used and managed biomass contributes to an increase in social prosperity in full correlation with European climate goals.
Enea, being aware of biomass’ role in EU energy policy, is engaged in promoting these problems in Poland and Europe.
It is also necessary to ensure that biomass is obtained in a sustainable way in order to prevent the negative influence of those processes on the environment. That goal should be reached by creating appropriate regulations connected to the conditions and sources of obtaining biomass, which ensure proper protection of agricultural and forest areas and at the same time do not present an excessive administrative and financial burden for suppliers.
The proposal of the European Commission included in the Winter Package and connected to biomass, faces social expectations and climate challenges, as an attempt to regulate the criteria of sustainable development in relation to obtaining biomass on an EU level. At the same time, the Commission tries to define the preferred directions of biomass investment development, suggesting mainly scattered sources and high-efficient cogeneration. It seems however that such a preference is a disproportionate measure and also limitation is an excessive intervention in the area of ‘producer- free decisions’. Maintaining the criteria of sustainable development for biomass, correctly defined on an EU level, is a sufficient instrument for ensuring that use of biomass will contribute to the realisation of climate goals without any harm to the environment. Discussion of the above solutions continues. It is necessary to vote for adopting reasonable and non-discriminatory solutions. We must also keep in mind that biomass availability and methods of use may be very specific for different regions of Europe.
It seems that taking into consideration the diminishing possibilities to use some RES technologies and the current stage of technological progress, Europe must fully take advantage of all available measures, including the energy obtained from biomass, on its way towards realising climate ambitions. Only the complex use of that potential and proper combination of biomass’ role with other renewable energy sources can be decisive for the perfect realisation of climate obligations by Europe. That realisation must not exclude any available possibilities, especially when such a possibility is at our fingertips – biomass.
Watch PKEE’s video message regarding the role of biomass in the energy transition.