As solid biomass is mostly made out of woody biomass, it is essential to understand the state of play and the actual impact of bioenergy on European forests. Contrary to common belief, EU-28 forests have been continuously growing over the past decades. In 1990, European forest represented a total amount of 19,7 billion m³. In 2015, EU-28 forest reached 26 billion m³, meaning that forest increased 34% over the last quarter of a century.
This growth is due to two main reasons: forest areas increasing and a growth of standing volumes. As far as forest areas are concerned, according to Eurostat, EU-28 forests gained 322.800 hectares every year. To visualise this growth, European forest is increasing by the size of a football field every minute. In the meantime, carbon stock is increasing as well. Every year, forests store 362,6 million tonnes of CO2. This growth results from long lasting trends in Europe including afforestation, protection programmes developed in most EU Member States, and a decrease in agricultural area. In this context, maintaining and mobilising the full potential of European forest is becoming a central challenge, showing great opportunities for bio-based economies. On average, about 62% of the annual forest increment in Europe is actually felled, meaning 38% of this annual increment remains in forests. However, the situation can vary from one country to another. Forest spreading is more common in the Mediterranean region, in countries such as Italy, France, Spain, and Slovenia, where at least 40% of the annual increment remains untouched.
In 2015, the removal of wood from forest remains largely driven by industry uses (sawmills, pulp and paper, panels etc…) with a share of 78%. In comparison, the energy sector is responsible for 22% of the wood removals, consisting mainly in harvesting residues and low quality wood. In 2015, bioenergy cannot be considered to be the main driver for forest owners to harvest their forests. In several studies and publications over the past years, one can read that the energy use of wood represents more than half of EU wood consumption. This figure is misleading as it actually takes into account not only wood removals from forest for energy, but also wood industry processing residues (eg: sawdust from sawmills to produce pellets). Therefore, it is very important to distinguish the role of the energy sector in forest removals and in total wood consumption. If bioenergy is not the main driver of wood harvest in Europe, the sector is offering an interesting opportunity to forest owners to develop sustainable forest management practices.
Want More Insight?
All statistics featured in the following section come from the AEBIOM 2016 Statistical Report. If you want more insight do not hesitate to download the ‘Key Findings’ of the report (free of charge) and order a copy of the full report (consult the table of content of the 2016 Edition).
First published in 2007, AEBIOM Statistical Report – European Bioenergy Outlook, has sought to provide European stakeholders with a comprehensive overview of the latest market trends in bio-heat, bio-electricity and bio-fuel sectors. The Full Report (200+ pages) gathers statistics, infographics and the most up-to-date data on the developments of the European bioenergy industry. The report is an important tool for the industry and for investors and policy makers to make informed evaluations and decisions. For more information, visit: www.aebiom.org/statistical-report-2016