USIPA: EU Council affirms support for biomass

By U.S. Industrial Pellet Association | June 29, 2022

The U.S. Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA) on June 28 welcomed continued support for sustainable sourcing of ‘primary woody biomass’ by the EU Council’s General Approach for revising the Renewable Energy Directive (REDIII).   

Amendments to the directive that would declassify ‘primary woody biomass’ as renewable energy were proposed by the European Parliament’s Environment Committee in May, but have failed to gain momentum after the Transport, Regional Development, Agriculture and Development Committees all voted to continue the use of primary woody biomass, and they are now joined by the 27 member states of the EU.    

“It is increasingly clear that calls to disqualify ‘primary biomass’ represent a fringe view within EU institutions as more policymakers examine the issue, and for good reason,” said Jessica Marcus, vice president, policy and operations for USIPA. “Doing so will set back efforts to achieve energy security, raise energy prices for consumers, and significantly risk any chance of meeting Green Deal climate targets.”   

Primary woody biomass is made from feedstock sourced directly from forests as opposed to secondary sawmills, and accounts for nearly 20 percent of the EU’s renewable energy consumption – more than the bloc’s combined wind fleet. These forest residues are critical not only for providing a significant amount of secure and sustainable energy, they also support healthy forests by providing a market for low-value fiber, and additional revenues to help landowners practice sustainable forest management.     

While the European Commission and Council do not support declassifying primary biomass, Parliament has yet to establish its position on the matter. This should formalize during a plenary vote in early fall, paving the way for interinstitutional negotiations among all three branches of the EU government to begin by the end of the year. This trialogue is expected to continue into 2023 and will ultimately determine any changes to biomass rules.       

In the meantime, Europe’s energy crisis is placing immense pressure on efforts to decarbonize, and threatens a relapse towards fossil fuels that will make it even harder to meet climate goals. Germany, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands all recently announced plans to resurrect old coal plants as gas supplies decline, prolonging their paths to net zero.   

“Bioenergy is the EU’s largest source of renewable energy, and one that crucially helps address both security and climate imperatives,” said Marcus. “As the process to revise REDIII moves forward, policymakers must ensure bioenergy continues to provide affordable, secure and sustainable energy to help alleviate the current crisis, and support long-term climate goals.”