EU announces bioenergy funding under 2 major initiatives

By Erin Voegele | July 10, 2014

The European Union has announced funding under two major initiatives that will benefit bioenergy projects and the biobased economy. On July 8, the European Commission awarded €1 billion ($1.36 billion) to 19 renewable energy and carbon reduction projects. The following day, the EU announced the launch of a new European Joint Undertaking on Bio-based Industries (BBI), which plans to inject a total of €3.7 billion into the economy over the next decade to trigger investments and create a competitive market for biobased projects and materials sourced locally and made in Europe.

The €1 billion in funding announced by the European Commission on July 8 will fund 19 projects under the second call of the NER 300 funding program. The funding for the projects comes from revenues from the sale of emissions allowances in the EU Emissions Trading System. A total of six bioenergy projects were awarded funding as part of the second round. Geothermal power, concentrated solar power, smart grid, ocean energy, photovoltaic, wind power and carbon-capture and storage projects also received funding.

Bioenergy projects selected for funding include a commercial-scale second-generation ethanol project in Holstebro, Denmark. The project is eligible for up to €39.3 million. According to the funding summary, that plant will annually produce 64.4 million liters (17.01 million gallons) of ethanol, 77,000 tons of lignin pellets, 1.51 MNm3 of methane and 75,000 tons of liquid annual waste, which will be transformed into biogas and injected into the national as grid. The facility will take in 250,000 ton per year of locally sourced straw.

The second bioenergy project is a fast pyrolysis project located in Pärnu, Estonia, that is eligible for up to €6.9 million in funding. It will convert 130,000 tons of wood chips into pyrolysis oil each year. The plant will receive energy inputs from a combined-heat-and-power (CHP) plant and deliver byproducts as inputs to that facility. Annual output of pyrolysis oil is expected to be 50,000 tons, which will be exported to Sweden and Finland to replace heavy fuel oil in power plants.

The third bioenergy project, located in Rakke, Estonia, is eligible for up to €25 million in funding and will involve a torrefaction plant that produces 100,000 tons of bio-coal from 260,000 tons of biomass annually. The project includes a biomass gasification CHP unit that will provide heat and power to the plant.

The fourth bioenergy project selected for funding is a fast pyrolysis project in Helgava, Latvia, that is eligible for up to €3.9 million in funding. The facility will receive energy inputs from a CHP plant and deliver byproducts of the pyrolysis as inputs to the CHP plant. The project will produce an estimated 40,000 metric tons of pyrolysis oil each year from 100,000 tons of woodchips. The bio-oil will be exported Sweden and Finland, where it will be used to replace heavy fuel oil use in energy installations.

The fifth bioenergy project is a waste-to-biofuels project located in Seville, Spain, that is eligible for up to €29.2 million in NER 300 funding. It will convert municipal solid waste (MSW) into ethanol via an enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation process. The 28 MMly project will take in 500,000 tons of MSW each year.  

The final bioenergy project awarded funding is a synthetic natural gas project in Sweden that is eligible for up to €29.2 million in funding. The plant will convert woody biomass into 200 MWth of synthetic natural gas, which will be pressurized and fed into a natural gas pipeline. The final location for the facility has not yet been selected.

A separate initiative announced the EU on July 9 aims to inject €3.7 billion into the European economy between 2014 and 2024, including €975 million from the European Commission and €2.7 billion from the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC) to develop an emerging bioeconomy sector. Through financing of research and innovation projects, the initiative aims to create new and novel partnerships across sectors, such as agricultural, agrofood, technology provides, forestry/pulp and paper, chemicals and energy.

According to information released by the European Union, the BBI aims to use Europe’s untapped biomass and waste as feedstock to make fossil-free and greener everyday products, including biobased chemicals, materials and fuels.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, said, "The bioeconomy has huge potential that is attracting investments all around the world. With this new partnership, we want to harness innovative technologies to convert Europe’s untapped renewable resources and waste into greener everyday products such as food, feed, chemicals, materials and fuels, all sourced and made in Europe."

Peder Holk Nielsen, CEO of Novozymes, added on behalf of industry partner, the Bio-based Industries Consortium, “The BBI is an unprecedented public-private commitment because of its focus on bringing bio-based solutions to the market. It is an opportunity to deliver sustainable growth in European regions and to reverse the investment trend currently going to other regions of the world.”

As part of its announcement, the BBI launched its first call for proposals. The first solicitation offers €50 million in funding from the European Commission, which is expected leverage an additional €150 million in industry contributions. According to information released on the call for proposals, 10 research and innovation projects are expected to be funding with €15 million. The remaining €35 million is expected to support five demonstration projects and one flagship project.

A full list of NER 300 funding awards is available here. Additional information on the BBI funding opportunity is available here