Report highlights growth of EU pellet consumption

By Erin Voegele | February 17, 2015

The EurObserv’ER has published a new edition of its Solid Biomass Barometer, reporting consumption of solid biomass in the European Union increased to 91.5 million tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 2013, up 2.9 Mtoe from the previous year. According to the report, the increase was particularly sharp in France and the U.K., with increases of a lesser degree occurring in Spain and Italy. Consumption in some countries, however, declined, including Sweden and Poland.

The report indicates overall heat consumption from solid biomass reached 71.7 Mtoe in the EU in 2013, along with 81.7 TWh of electricity. Primary energy consumption from solid biomass in the EU reached 91.5 Mtoe, up 3.3 percent from 2012. The EurObserv’ER’s defines solid biomass as a variety of solid organic components used as heat- and electricity-producing fuels, including wood, wood waste, wood pellets, black liquors, bagasse, animal waste and other plant matter and residues.

According to the report, most of the solid biomass consumed in the EU during 2013 was produced on European soil, with EU primary energy production estimated to be 88.1 Mtoe, up 2.4 percent from the prior year. The difference is made up by imports, primarily wood pellets from the U.S. and Canada.

EurObserv’ER estimates wood pellet production in the EU reached 18.3 million metric tons in 2013, with total global consumption estimated to be 23.2 million metric tons. EU member states produced approximately 12.2 million metric tons of wood pellets and imported about 33.3 percent of the volume it consumed. The U.S. exported approximately 2.77 million metric tons of wood pellets to the EU in 2013, up from 1.77 million metric tons in 2012. Canada exported approximately 1.92 million metric tons of wood pellets to the EU in 2013, up from 1.35 million metric tons the previous year. Russia supplied approximately 702,000 metric tons of wood pellets to the EU in 2013, with the Ukraine and Belarus supplying 165,000 metric tons and 116,000 metric tons, respectively. While the British, Dutch and Belgian markets primarily use wood pellets in high-capacity power plants, the Nordic countries of Sweden and Denmark use pellets in heating appliances and large cogeneration plants. Germany, Italy, Austria and France use wood pellets primarily in residential heating systems and industrial boilers.

Germany remained the top EU country for primary energy production from solid biomass in 2013, with 10.9 Mtoe, down from 10.93 Mtoe in 2012. France, Sweden, Finland and Italy rounded out the top five countries for primary energy production of solid biomass. Germany was also the top EU country for gross consumption of solid biomass, with 10.9 Mtoe. France, Sweden, Italy and Finland are also top gross consumers of solid biomass.

Regarding sustainability, the report points out that the European Commission has warned that no Europe-wide harmonized legislation on sustainability criteria is planned before 2020. “The Commission feels that current legislation, regardless of whether its scope is national or European is sufficiently binding to provide sustainable operation conditions,” said the EurObserver’ER in the report, noting that several industry groups have been calling for a European framework to rule on the sustainability criteria because investors need to have a clear of the regulatory developments after 2020. In the interim, the report says biomass importers have been developing their own verification and certification system. However, for the time being, the U.K. is the only country that has decided to introduce its own sustainability criteria. Under the U.K.’s Renewable Obligation program, utilities are required to collect information on the sustainability of the fuels they used tied the obligation and public an annual report. As of April 1, the EurObserv’ER said the renewable electricity producers’ data collection obligation will take the form of mandatory adherence to these criteria to continue to benefit from the Renewable Obligation Certificate system. The report also notes the Dutch, Danes and Belgians are also developing their own legislation to ensure the sustainability of their biomass feedstock.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the EurObserv’ER website