IEA for EU4Energy Policy Forum discussed opportunities and challenges for bioenergy use

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. This event focused on bioenergy barriers, drivers and best practice. It included presentations from the European Commission, the European Biogas Associations, as well as several country case studies (presentations are available for download).

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 (Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova) demonstrated the diversity of the challenges facing bioenergy development.

The European Biogas Association presented several best practice examples on sustainable biogas production from agricultural residues and waste, providing renewable heat. Compared to the electricity sector, biogas in the heating sector is supported less frequently. There are no incentives in Cyprus, Malta, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Latvia, Portugal, Romania and Slovenia. By far the most widespread schemes in the heat sector to support biogas are grants (12 Member States), followed by loans (7 Member States) and tax regulations (5 Member States). Feed-in Premium in the heat sector is currently applied in four European Member States. The only Member State applying a Feed-in Tariff in the heat sector – The So – Called ‘Renewable Heat Incentive’ – is the United Kingdom.

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.