EBA promotes further use of biogas in EU heating, cooling sector

By Katie Fletcher | February 04, 2016

Last month, the European Biogas Association released a position paper that strongly supports the European Commission’s plans to establish a common EU strategy for the heating and cooling sector. In a sector which has an 80-percent dependency on fossil fuels, an estimated 46 percent of the European energy consumption is destined for heating and cooling. Currently, natural gas has the largest share, producing 47 percent of the total in the energy sector. The EBA’s position is that in order to decarbonize heating and cooling in a cost-effective manner—by maintaining the existing infrastructure—the EU should promote further production and use of biomethane, which is the only renewable alternative to natural gas known so far.

The paper shared other renewable energy sources, including raw biogas fed into combined-heat-and-power (CHP) units, could significantly contribute to an increased share of renewable in the heavily fossil-dependent sector. EBA stated in the paper that by 2030 the overall potential for biogas production from anaerobic digestion is at least 30 billion cubic meters per year. According to the EBA, taken together with biomass gasification, an estimate for the total production of biomethane is 50 billion cubic meters per year. By 2030, the industry could produce renewable energy equivalent to approximately 10 percent of the EU’s current natural gas consumption for electricity generation, heating and cooling and as a transportation fuel.

Another benefit of biomethane and biogas use as a heating fuel includes improved gas security of supply, according to the paper. The renewable gases are domestically sourced fuels that can be produced anywhere in Europe, thus avoiding gas imports from third-world countries and politically unstable regions. For example, animal manures and other agricultural residues can be used as feedstock, helping farmers generate energy on-site to reach energy self-sufficiency, not only for their own farm, but also for the local community. Another attribute of biomethane is that it can be made with full use of existing natural gas infrastructure and equipment: the gas grid, CHP units and domestic gas boilers. Other benefits include its flexibility and its ability to store, as well as biogas’ opportunity for use in CHPs to contribute to powering district heating in urban areas.

The EBA includes suggestions on how the potential and benefits of biomethane and biogas can be realized. EBA calls on the EU to impose an ambitious policy framework and legislation to increase the amount of all renewables in the heating and cooling sector, and more specifically in the biogas sector for the commission to encourage member states to maximize the full efficiency of their biogas plants through optimal support for heat recovery. The EBA also believes in order to effectively substitute a part of the natural gas supplies, biomethane needs a common European market.

The paper concludes with suggestions for best use of incentive mechanisms and best practices for heating use of biogas that are currently being deployed. The best practice examples EBA mentions for heating use of biogas include outdoor pools in Germany; thermal health spa in Austria; Municipality of Trebon in the Czech Republic; Vale Green Farm in Evesham, U.K.; and Dairygold in Mitchelstown, Ireland. 

The EBA position paper published Jan. 4 can be downloaded here.