Paris and Pellets: Riding the Winds of Change

The climate agreement in Paris sent a strong message to the energy sector. Egger says the pellet sector could undoubtedly play a more important role in the transformation of the energy systems in many countries around the globe.
By Christiane Egger | January 21, 2016

A few weeks ago in Paris, a potentially historical climate agreement was signed and sent a strong message about the important changes that are to come to the worldwide energy sector. The 195 participating nations showed their commitment to reducing greenhouse gases in order to limit the rise in global temperatures. An ambitious transition toward renewable energy sources has been announced with the goal of weaning our societies off fossil fuels by the end of the century.

Political decisions, such as those made in Paris, offer a chance for change—although not a certainty of change. Actors need to come together to make the change happen. More importantly, actors need to play their cards right. The pellet sector could undoubtedly play a more important role in the transformation of the energy systems in many countries around the globe. Its task now is to position itself strategically in order to take advantage of this opportunity and secure its place on the front line!

In Europe, bioenergy and especially wood energy, including pellets, have a clear place in climate and energy policies.

The recently published statistical report "European Bioenergy Outlook" from the European Biomass Association (Aebiom) reveals interesting facts on the current state of the bioenergy sector in Europe. The role of bioenergy has steadily increased over the past decade and now represents over 61 percent of all renewable energy consumed in Europe: 75 percent of it is bioheat, 13 percent bioelectricity and 12 percent transport fuels. Bioenergy has doubled in the past 15 years and another 30 percent growth is expected by 2020, according to the energy action plans of the member states. Wood pellets play a strategic role in this transformation. With more than 13.5 million tons of wood pellets produced, the EU is the world's largest producer of wood pellets (about 50 percent of world production shares). Europe is also the world's largest pellet consumer, responsible for about 75 percent of the worldwide consumption.

This development is mostly a result of energy and climate policies, resulting from Europe's long-standing commitment to reduce climate gas emissions and to create jobs through vibrant renewable energy industries. Each member state has agreed to achieve a specific percentage of renewable energy in its total energy consumption by 2020. Progress is rigorously monitored and not meeting the targets can result in court procedures and ultimately hefty fines.

Each member state decides how it wants to achieve its targets and what its renewable energy mix looks like. In the past, electricity generation was at the focus of most countries' policy decisions and the main interest was in wind or solar energy. However, in recent years, many countries started to realize that the transition of the heating sector—which accounts for 40 percent of Europe's energy demand—is as important for achieving member state targets and often less capital intensive. And in heating, biomass is the most important renewable energy source.

The Paris agreement will provide an additional impetus to drive the transformation of global energy systems toward clean and affordable energy for its citizens and businesses.  Making sure that the pellet sector has its rightful place in the transition process in Europe, North America and other parts of the world requires leadership and an industry that is willing to respond to the challenge. Many players in the pellet sector are already rolling up their sleeves. They are ready to find ways for the industry to further bloom.

The European Pellet Conference (www.pellets16.eu), which takes place from Feb. 24-25 in Wels, Austria, is a good place to start! This conference is the largest annual pellet event worldwide and the meeting place for the global pellet community. Come join 600 experts to discuss how we can best achieve flourishing development of the pellet sector together! Now that political commitments have been taken, let's make the change happen!

Author: Christiane Egger
Deputy Manager, OÖ Energiesparverband, Manager Oekoenergie-Cluster
(Energy Agency of Upper Austria)
Phone: +43 732 7720 14380
Email: christiane.egger@esv.or.at