Brussels, 28 October 2010. The European panel industry has recently expressed their disagreement to support further biomass development. The main concern of the panel industry is the competition for the same source – wood and/or its residues. The European Biomass Association (AEBIOM) provides its position on this topic and reaffirms the essential role of bioenergy in the EU energy sector, the development of which is creating new companies and jobs whilst providing affordable biomass fuels to fight energy poverty.
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AEBIOM considers that bioenergy is not a threat but an unexploited opportunity for the panel industry. The bioenergy sector offers a solution for panel industry to diversify their energy supply and to develop new projects in this expanding business sector. The competition for wood will certainly increase but an increased price for wood would help to mobilise those wood resources (e.g. forest residues) that are unexploited at the moment (due to their unprofitability).
An argument that it is more important to produce wood panels than, for example, provide energy and especially heating for citizens can not be considered as a valid argument.
Diversification of panel industry
Wood based industries such as the panel industry should see an opportunity in bioenergy markets as this industry is sourcing and handling biomass in large quantities. Bioenergy can make the wood based industries themselves less and less dependent on fossil fuels in the future. Quite a few industries have already done so by choosing to switch to pellet manufacturing, a rapidly growing market with high future demand.
Biomass prices are rising due to the competition for the raw material and due to higher energy prices. So far, prices of such valuable biomass were extremely low, sometimes even “negative” (treated as waste) due to the fact that the panel industry took advantage of its strong position of being the sole possible client for biomass producers (sawdust, etc.). This is not the case anymore and all industries, including bioenergy producers, have to cope with such (normal) competition. Time of monopolies has come to an end.
Higher prices for forest by-products are also highly welcome to support more sustainable forest management practices.
Reducing energy dependence of Europe is essential
EU import dependency is increasing steadily from 45% in 1997 to 55% in 2008. These imports represent 350 billion Euro, or an incredibly high amount of 700 Euros for every EU citizen. It is a major threat for our economies and jobs because sooner or later fossil fuels will be depleted and will inevitably become more and more expensive in the future. It should not be forgotten that the oil price peaks and the Russian gas supply disruptions cause negative impact on energy supply and energy poverty. Addressing security of energy supply is urgent.
In 2007 bioenergy contributed to 78 million tons oil equivalent (Mtoe) to the final energy consumption in the EU, or 6,7% of the total energy consumption. It represents 2/3 of all renewables, in other words, bioenergy is a corner stone of the renewable energy supply.
Biomass, an indispensable renewable energy
Biomass is an important renewable energy source due to the fact that it can be easily stored and due to the fuel versatility – it can be used to produce heat (space heating and industrial heating – steam), electricity and even biofuels. As biomass is a stored renewable energy, it can be efficiently combined with other renewables playing a key role during the winter time. Bioenergy is indispensable in a strategy aiming at covering 100% renewables by 2050.
Fight against energy poverty
Biomass fuels are at least twice less expensive compared to fossil fuels alternatives for households and the biomass prices are much more stable. Therefore, it provides a solution to combat energy poverty. In EU27, 21% of the households are unable to keep their home adequately heated, and an increasing number of people suffering from cold because they cannot afford to pay an increased energy bill.
In 2009 the renewable energy industry has employed over 550 000 people. It is estimated that biomass for heat, covering of the total bioenergy use, will represent 800 000 jobs in Europe in 2020.
Both small enterprises and large companies will hire personnel of various qualifications, ranging from craftsmen and harvesting machine drivers to engineers, traders, project developers, etc. Bioenergy provides by nature decentralised markets, both for biomass production in forest and agriculture as well as for its end use. Therefore, it provides a large potential for rural development. The bioenergy industry cannot, to a large extend, move out from Europe like many other industries, including particle board manufacturing.
Plenty of biomass
In Europe a study by the European Environmental Agency, taking environmental limitations into account, shows that 234 Mtoe biomass are available by 2020, more than twice the actual use.
European forestry statistics are showing that only 61% of the net annual increments of forest are harvested. The biomass stock in the forests is increasing continuously, and has double during the period 1950 – 2000 (from 10 to 20 billion m3 wood).
At world level several studies are estimating that the biomass potential is higher than the total energy consumption.
The forest and agricultural sectors should aim for more biomass production and thus increase the supply, to the profit of all wood users, including panel producing companies. It requires specific forest management practices and significant investments in machines and infrastructure.
Biomass is a valuable and vital resource to diversify our energy supply, provide affordable energy for citizens and create new industries and jobs in Europe.
The European Biomass Association AEBIOM is the voice of the bioenergy sector, representing directly over 4000 companies and stakeholders in Europe.
For further information, please contact:
Jean-Marc Jossart, AEBIOM – European Biomass Association, jossart(a)aebiom.org; + 32 10 47 34 55