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EU Bioenergy Policy: how to get it right

If the EU’s renewable energy policy is going to succeed in having a positive impact on the climate, key changes are needed to the European Commission’s new Renewable Energy Directive (RED II).

The Commission must recognise that bioenergy can only ever play a limited role in meeting EU energy demands; that some particularly damaging sources of bioenergy should be entirely excluded from industrial use; and the rest must only be used in the most energy-efficient power plants.

Now is the time to fix RED II so that it has a chance to achieve what it is designed for.

Recommendations for how to improve the bioenergy elements of the Renewable Energy Directive:

  1. No subsidies for risky sources of biomass

    Burning some forms of biomass such as roundwood and stumps as well as crops from agricultural land has a particularly negative impact on the climate, and on biodiversity. These high-risk biomass sources should never receive subsidies or contribute to meeting EU renewable energy targets.

  2. Only use biomass in the most energy efficient installations

    End public support for new highly inefficient electricity only bioenergy plants in 2021, with no exceptions. Energy efficiency criteria need to apply to all installations larger than one megawatt.

  3. No targets for advanced biofuels without real emission savings

    The proposed target is not realistic – there is not enough feedstock to meet it sustainably. Only truly sustainable and renewable waste and residue feedstocks that effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions should be included.

  4. Completely phase out land based biofuels

    The existing EU commitment to cut public support for first generation biofuels after 2020 must be upheld. By 2030 bioenergy grown on agricultural land should be phased out completely.

  5. Emissions reduction criteria must fully recognise the climate impact of bioenergy

    The draft Directive demands that ‘renewable energy’ demonstrably reduces greenhouse gas emissions, but the criteria do not currently reflect the true climate impacts of different ‘renewable energy’ types, meaning emissions reductions on paper don’t necessarily mean reductions in reality. The accounting rules for biomass need to be fixed before they can provide any kind of safeguard against unsustainable, counter-productive bioenergy use.

    For more information from Fern on bioenergy sustainability criteria read:

    A dangerous delusion: Debunking the myths around sustainable forests and the EU’s bioenergy policy

    Burning trees for energy is no solution to climate change

    A new sustainable bioenergy policy

    Why LULUCF cannot ensure that bioenergy reduces emissions

    Burning Matter: Making Bioenergy Policy Work for People and Forests