EU bioenergy potential from a resource efficiency perspective

July 3, 2013 |

EU-report-070313Report calls for a broader biomass mix and more perennial crops.

In the UK, Bioenergy production must use resources more efficiently, says a new report from the European Environment Agency, and follow EU resource efficiency principles. The report, ‘EU bioenergy from a resource efficiency perspective’, primarily looks at the potential for energy from agricultural land, although it includes forest and waste biomass in the overall analysis.

Building on previous analysis, the report shows that the current energy crop mix is not favorable to the environment, and recommends a broader mix of crops to reduce environmental impacts, specifically perennial crops.

Overall, the EEA has revised its estimate of potential bioenergy production in the EU first published in 2006, reducing the estimate by approximately 40 %. The estimate was revised due to changes in scientific understanding, the changed EU policy framework and accounting for economic factors. In general, using bioenergy for heat and power, the report found, is a more efficient way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, compared to using bioenergy for transport fuel.

The report also found that using mature trees for energy purposes may have a negative effect on the climate, due to the long time it takes for the trees to regrow and re-capture the CO2 that is released when wood is used for energy. This ‘carbon debt’ does not arise if bioenergy uses other forest biomass instead, for example branches left over from forest harvesting by-products or waste products from timber and paper production.

Using organic waste and agricultural or forestry residues as feedstock, the report found, is more resource efficient than many other types of feedstock, as it does not add pressure on land and water resources and offers very high greenhouse gas savings.

A free copy of the report can be downloaded here.

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