Europe’s ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’ Proposals
In late November 2016, the European Commission released its highly anticipated “Clean Energy for All Europeans” package, which contains multiple energy proposals for post-2020, including a proposed revision to the EU Renewable Energy Directive and accompanying proposed criteria for bioenergy.
The proposals include increasing the share of renewables in energy consumption to 27 percent by 2030, 50 percent of which must be in renewable electricity, and increasing the energy efficiency target to 30 percent by 2030. One major difference in the revised RED is that the share of renewables is not set at the member state level, whereas the current targets for 2020 include specific binding targets for each member state. Instead, the 2030 targets are set for the EU as a whole.
The revised RED also introduces new sustainability and efficiency criteria for biomass. The proposed approach to ensuring greenhouse gas reductions, while also minimizing any negative environmental impacts, is a risk-based approach, using national and international certification and verification schemes, such as the Sustainable Biomass Partnership standard. The proposals allow member states flexibility in developing sustainability criteria or using current national laws and regulations for compliance.
Carbon emissions from woody biomass will still be considered under land use change provisions in the country where the biomass is produced. U.S. forests currently serve as a carbon sink, thereby indicating that the forestry sector (including biomass) provides a positive carbon benefit. Emissions during production and transport of biomass will continue to be reported to each member state’s regulatory body and accounted for under national emissions levels.
On efficiency, the proposal requires biomass installations over 20 megawatts to comply with higher efficiency standards, limiting the biomass industry to combined-heat-and-power projects only. The policy intention of this proposal is unclear, as biomass-to-power generation projects already surpass current 2020 biofuel efficiency targets, making this limitation seem arbitrary. This proposed requirement will not apply to current projects and exemptions are allowed if a member state can provide substantiated evidence of electricity supply risks without biopower installations.
Overall, the energy package presents a positive outlook for the biomass industry. The proposals acknowledge that biomass “plays a key role towards delivering the EU climate and energy objectives, and this role will continue in the future.” Additionally, the proposals recognize the positive impacts that sustainable biomass can have on forest operations and that biomass offers substantial greenhouse gas savings.
However, these proposals are far from final. Over the next 18 to 24 months, EU Parliament and the EU Council will review and vote on these proposals and we will likely see multiple changes and edits as each member state and stakeholders across multiple industries and sectors voice their opinions. We look forward to working with these multiple parties and legislative bodies to ensure that bioenergy remains an important part of Europe’s climate strategy.
Author: Seth Ginther
U.S. Industrial Pellet Association