EurObserv'ER annual report highlights EU bioenergy sector

By Erin Voegele | March 27, 2014

EurObserv’ER has released the 2013 edition of its annual renewable energy report, which determined that final energy consumption from renewable resources increased significantly in 2012. The report, titled “The State of Renewable Energies in Europe,” includes an overview of European biofuel and bioenergy production and consumption.

Regarding biofuels, the analysis shows that consumption reached approximately 14.3 million tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 2012, up 4 percent from 2011’s consumption level of 13.8 Mtoe. According to the report, measurements of the sustainably certified share of consumption was not available for all countries when the EUrObserv’ER survey was conducted. In addition there are still uncertainties about European Commission acceptance of certification systems implemented in some countries. However, the organization estimates that the 82 percent, or 11.7 Mtoe, of the biofuel consumed in 2012 was certified as sustainable, up from 61 percent or 8.5 Mtoe the previous year.

On energy content basis, the report shows that biodiesel accounted for 79 percent of European biofuel consumption in 2012, with ethanol accounting for 20.1 percent. Pure vegetable oil and biogas accounted for less than 1 percent of consumption.

Germany was Europe’s leading biofuel consumer in 2012. The country consumed an estimated 2.19 Mtoe of biodiesel and 0.81 Mtoe of ethanol. Germany’s official biofuel share of total road fuel consumption increased to 5.7 percent in 2011, up from 5.5 percent the previous year. France, the U.K., Spain and Sweden round out the top five European ethanol consumers in 2012. Together, the 27 E.U. member countries consumed nearly 2.89 Mtoe of ethanol in 2012.

The production and consumption of biogas energy also increased in Europe. The report estimates that primary energy production for biogas grew by 15.7 percent in 2012, reaching 12 Mtoe. Anaerobic digestion plants dominated the sector, with 66.5 percent of energy projection. Biogas from landfill gas projects and sewage plants accounted for 23.7 percent and 9.9 percent of energy projection, respectively.

An estimated 46.3 TWh of electricity from biogas was generated in 2012, up 22.2 percent from the prior year. Nearly 65 percent of that was from cogeneration plants. Biogas heat output rose to 2.2 Mtoe, a 2.2 percent increase. Implementation into the natural gas grid is also increasing. The report estimates that more than 152 biogas plants were injecting gas into the natural gas network by the close of 2012, with Germany taking the lead. Injection capacity is expected to reach 113,000 normal cubic meters by 2017, up from 80,390 normal cubic meters of combined injection capacity per hour in 2012.

Germany was the largest producer of biogas in 2012, with 6.42 Mtoe, followed by the U.K. with 1.81 Mtoe. Italy, France and Czech Republic were also among the top five producers.

Taking into account only the renewable component of urban waste, the report estimates that European energy output from urban waste incineration was 8.8 Mtoe in 2012, resulting in 18.9 TWh of electricity production. The production of both heat and power from waste-to-energy projects increased. Germany was the largest producer of energy from waste, with nearly 2.6 Mtoe of energy production. France, Netherlands, Italy and the U.K. were also top producers. Total EU energy production from waste reached 8.75 Mtoe in 2012.

EurOberv’ER estimates that solid biomass delivered 82.2 Mtoe of energy to Europe in 2012. Gross solid biomass primary energy consumption is estimated to be 85.6 Mtoe, a figure that takes into account imports and exports. European wood pellet consumption increased from 9.5 million tons in 2011 to 15.1 million tons in 2012, which approximately 30 percent of that volume imported. Germany led solid biomass consumption with 11.81 Mtoe, followed by France, Sweden, Finland and Poland. Germany also led for total electricity produced from solid biomass, with 12.19 TWh generated. Finland, Sweden, Poland and the U.K. were also top generators of electricity from solid biomass.

Moving into 2014, the report notes that the E.U. has a new seven-year multi-annual framework for its spending, and that policy makers are focusing attention on maintaining investor confidence in renewable energy beyond 2020.