Officials and experts from the 11 IEA for EU4Energy countries met in Vienna on April 24 for the EU4Energy programme’s fifth renewables policy forum. Previous forums in Astana, Minsk, Kiev and Odessa examined renewable energy policy more broadly, system integration and renewable heat. As a follow-up to the Kiev heat forum, this event focused on bioenergy barriers, drivers and best practice. It included presentations from the European Commission and European bioenergy associations, as well as several country case studies.
Globally, bioenergy is the largest renewable energy source and especially important in the heat sector. In the IEA for EU4Energy countries, the potential for bioenergy generally remains underexploited and reliance on fossil fuels for heat production is high. At the forum, presentations from three EU4Energy countries demonstrated the diversity of the challenges facing bioenergy development.
In Georgia, 90% of rural households depend on wood energy which is generally combusted at very low efficiency. This has led to the unsustainable exploitation of the country’s forestry resources forests. However, this is likely to change with the country having recently joined the European Energy Community. New renewable energy targets and a new forestry code provide a more optimistic outlook for the future use of bioenergy in the country and protection of forests.
Meanwhile, in Ukraine, energy security has been a main driver of the deployment of bioenergy in the district heating sector. The Ukrainian government adopted a new energy strategy in 2017 which aims to achieve a large increase in renewable heat consumption from 6% at present to 40% in 2035. Much of this growth will have to come from agricultural residues and a lot of effort is needed to develop this potential.
In Moldova, bioenergy also plays an important role in reducing dependence on energy imports. An EU/UNDP biomass programme in the country has successfully promoted the use of bioenergy in the public sector and supported the development of local biomass boiler manufacturing to reduce costs and create local jobs.
Austria has demonstrated that it is possible to use a high share of bioenergy (which provides 30% of heat consumption), create local jobs and continue to grow the forest stock. Air pollution concerns can also be dealt with through modern boilers which have very low emissions, and ensuring best practice in fuel selection. In the future, the contribution of bioenergy can grow still further, provided this goes hand in hand with energy efficiency improvements in buildings.
While not all countries have as good a resource base as Austria, most EU4Energy countries agreed that they had some potential for expanding bioenergy, for example from a variety of agricultural residues such as straw, manure, and cotton stalks. Challenges include developing supply chains, creating awareness about bioenergy options amongst the public and decision-makers, as well as building technical capacity.
The IEA for EU4Energy programme will continue to engage with the 11 countries to explore how bioenergy and the deployment of other renewables can progress.