Bio-energy in Europe: changing technology choices

Dec 2004

Bio-energy is seen as one of the key options to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and substitute fossil fuels. This is certainly evident in Europe, where a kaleidoscope of activities and programs was and is executed for developing and stimulating bio-energy.
Over the past 10–15 years in the European Union, heat and electricity production from biomass increased with some 2% and 9% per year, respectively, between 1990 and 2000 and biofuel production increased about eight-fold in the same period. Biomass contributed some two-thirds of the total renewable energy production in the European Union (EU) (2000 PJ) or 4% of the total energy supply in 1999.Given the targets for heat, power and biofuels, this contribution may rise to some 10% (6000 PJ) in 2010.
Over time, the scale at which bio-energy is being used has increased considerably. This is true for electricity and combined heat and power plants, and how biomass markets are developing from purely regional to international markets, with increasing crossborder trade-flows. So far, national policy programs proved to be of vital importance for the success of the development of bioenergy, which led to very specific technological choices in various countries. For the future, a supra-national approach is desired: comprehensive research development, demonstration & deployment trajectories for key options as biomass integrated gasification/combined cycle and advanced biofuel concepts, develop an international biomass market allowing for international trade and an integral policy approach for bio-energy incorporating energy, agricultural, forestry, waste and industrial policies. The Common Agricultural Policy of the (extended) EU should fully incorporate bio-energy and perennial crops in particular.

By: André P.C. Faaij

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