What is needed ?
Last October, Member States have confirmed the proposed approach of the Commission to set a minimum 27% renewable energy target binding at EU level but with no binding national commitments from Member States. AEBIOM regrets this decision which means a limited growth perspective and does not build on the potential bioenergy offers. However, the target approach is not the only tool able to guarantee future RES progress. Indeed, the Commission is now expecting to set the appropriate framework (including a governance system) so as to make sure that renewable energy technologies continue their development and that Member States contribute to the EU objective.This framework could, among others, encompass concrete measures and detailed indicators for renewable progress reporting.
The development of EU energy policies has experienced a lack of focus on the heating sector. Attention should now be drawn on heating to balance this development and allow tackling issues such as energy security, energy poverty or decarbonisation of our energy system. In this context, a comprehensive EU heat strategy or action plan, including the role for RES heating technologies combined with energy efficiency measures, should be developed. Under this framework, a comprehensive analysis of the heating sector should first take place, in order to have a holistic vision and knowledge of the sector and, among others, allow an efficient switch to renewable heating technologies. Also, communication actions need to be developed and strengthened in order to raise awareness of consumers on the available RES technologies and the benefits they bring.
To date, EU binding sustainability criteria are in place only for biofuels used in the transport sector. The establishment of EU mandatory criteria for biomass in the heating and electricity sector would support the continuity of the bioenergy sector development by providing stable investment conditions and evidence to the society on biomass sustainability. The implementation of the criteria should take into account existing national forest legislations and system inventories, as well as sustainable forest management certifications and practices. Only a balanced and non-bureaucratic proposal will allow the endorsement of an EU sustainability framework and ensure the continuity of biomass developments necessary to achieve EU energy and climate policies objectives.
The renewed concerns for our security of supply are to date mainly due to the EU’s heavy dependency on natural gas from Russia, mostly used for heat. Indeed more than 40% of natural gas consumed in Europe is being used for heating of buildings and 31% for industrial processes. Gas is not the only fossil fuel which the EU is dependent on. The same goes for oil which the overall dependency rate keeps increasing by 80%. In its proposal for a “European Energy Security Strategy”, published on 28 May 2014, the European Commission rightly highlights that “a fuel-switch to indigenous renewable heating sources can displace significant amounts of imported fuels”. In addition, in its “Energy Security Stress Test communication”, the Commission clearly identifies biomass both in urgent recommendations and medium term measures to tackle the EU energy security issues. It is now crucial to accompany these statements with concrete measures and commitments that accelerate fuel switch and address the supply side of heating at European level. Biomass technologies are available and practical options which, alongside energy efficiency, will alleviate our fossil fuels dependency.