The European Union is considering tightening restrictions on whether wood-burning electricity can be classified as sustainable and count toward green targets.
The goal is to safeguard fragile ecosystems such as old-growth forests and to prevent wood that could be used for other purposes, such as furniture, from ending up as pellets or chips that are burned to generate biomass energy.
The draught European Commission plan to revise EU legislation, biomass-fueled power, and heat facilities with a capacity of 5 megawatts (MW) or more must meet sustainability standards and provide significant emissions reductions compared to fossil fuels. Currently, biomass facilities with a capacity of less than 20MW are exempt from these regulations.
In 2019, renewable energy sources will offer roughly 20% of EU energy. More than half of the total is biomass, which the EU considers to have a low carbon footprint since CO2 emissions from wood-burning are partially offset by CO2 absorbed by trees as they grow.
That accounting has been criticized by environmental groups, with some claiming that the draught approach will fail to conserve forests. According to the draught, biomass-fueled installations will be considered renewable if they emit 70% fewer emissions than fossil fuels. At the moment, this only applies to installations that began functioning this year.
According to the proposal, national support schemes supporting biomass energy use must adhere to a “cascading concept” that wood should only be burned as a last resort for energy. In addition, the draught will set more stringent EU targets for renewable energy expansion. They were left out of the document.
The EU’s current goal is to use renewable energy to cover 30% of its energy needs by 2030. According to a study by the European Commission, 38-40% of GDP is required to meet EU climate change targets. The plan, which is part of a package of policies aimed at reducing EU emissions by 55 percent by 2030 from 1990 levels, could alter before it is published on July 14.