RED II set the first European-wide sustainability criteria for solid bioenergy

A political deal has been found between European Commission, European Parliament and Council on the Renewable Energy Directive II. This is the first time that European-wide sustainability criteria for solid bioenergy have been adopted. After almost three years full of negotiations, it is now time to step back and have a comprehensive oversight on the numerous compromise proposals: Where do we stand now compared to the beginning of the political process? What are our next steps on sustainability?

The final political agreement guarantees a balanced approach towards the sustainability criteria ensuring a future for bioenergy in Europe’s energy transition. This cannot be taken for granted: Attempts to strongly diminish the use of bioenergy has been numerous throughout this process: the idea to ban the use of roundwood, to introduce a cascading approach, to apply the criteria to small-size installations, to stop supporting electricity-only installations and to adopt unachievably high GHG emission saving criteria. AEBIOM has been very active throughout the whole process and achieved a forward-looking outcome for sustainable bioenergy.

First of all, the risk-based approach has been maintained throughout the process. This approach ensures that biomass is produced sustainably, irrespective of its geographical origin, without creating unnecessary administrative burden in countries with a well-established system of sustainable forest management in place. Small installations below 20 MW have been exempted from the requirements to meet the sustainability criteria as they use only a very limited amount of total biomass used for bioenergy. Both points have been strongly advocated by AEBIOM based on market data provided by its members.

Moreover, there has been no total ban of specific types of feedstocks (e.g. roundwood) nor specific types of installations (e.g. electricity-only, co-firing). Operators can still use all types of feedstocks provided that GHG emissions attributed to their processing and transport meet the sustainability and greenhouse gas emission saving criteria. Electricity-only installations can still be supported if they meet certain efficiency requirements and co-firing is allowed in those installations if biomass is the main fuel. Once again, AEBIOM played a key role in finding a balanced compromise on these issues.

AEBIOM has been one of the front-runners calling for harmonised sustainability criteria at EU-level. Despite our call for full harmonisation, EU policy-makers decided that Member States should still be able to adopt additional, national criteria.

Implementation is a crucial phase which is starting now. Member States will need to decide how to transpose the sustainability criteria into national law. At European level, the European Commission will prepare a guidance document to shape this process. Many detailed elements are still open to interpretation: Does syngas from gasification of wood fuels fall under gaseous or solid biofuels? What is considered a sufficient proof of maintaining soil quality? How to demonstrate that the carbon stock is maintained over the long term? How to make sure that enough certified biomass is available on the market in 2021 when the criteria start to apply?

More than ever before, we will have to show our commitment and our actual contribution to a cleaner Europe. What is needed now, is a clear vision for the future of the bioenergy sector based on the potential of sustainable biomass. Our sector has many success stories to tell: after this political battle on RED II, our positive image has to be restored to be ready for the next political discussions to come.

AEBIOM will work intensively with you in the coming months and years to meet these challenges.

Anna Martin, AEBIOM Policy Officer