The role of bioenergy in Europe's energy future

There is no basis for believing that EU’s emission reduction targets will be met with current biomass policies and accounting methods.

European countries expect to use large volumes of biomass mainly from forests to provide heat and electricity and to meet renewable energy targets for 2020. The use of forest biomass raises questions about the ‘carbon debt’ that is created when trees, that take decades to grow and reabsorb atmospheric carbon dioxide, are cut down and burned for energy generation. IEEP’s report discusses the implications of the EU’s reliance on biomass for energy, and questions whether bioenergy has a significant role to play in reducing Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Given the prevailing uncertainty about biomass supply and failings in emissions accounting it’s not currently possible to measure the emissions and savings that would arise from Europe’s expanding use of biomass for energy. At present we are only certain of the commitment to bioenergy use up to 2020, but have no associated guarantee of emission reduction. We therefore call for a shift of focus towards using bioenergy sourced from waste and residue streams for which no alternative uses compete.