Bioenergy - Fuelling Europe's future?
The EU is committed to a 12 per cent target for renewable energy by 2010. Increasing the use of renewable energies offers significant opportunities for Europe. Securing energy supply and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are two of the most obvious.
Europe can produce sufficient bioenergy to meet its renewable energy target without harming the environment. However, this requires an appropriate policy framework according to the new EEA report entitled, 'How much bioenergy can Europe produce without harming the environment?' released today by the European Environment Agency (EEA).
Biomass - organic matter that can be used to create electricity, heat and fuel for transport - currently provides two thirds of the renewable energy produced in Europe today. On the other hand, if badly managed, increased production of bioenergy may intensify farming and forestry, impacting upon biodiversity and soil and water resources.
The EEA has developed a number of environmental criteria to minimise additional environmental pressures from bioenergy production. Based on these criteria, the environmentally-compatible bioenergy potential for the EU-25 for 2010, 2020 and 2030 has been calculated.
The report, which did not analyse costs and logistics, finds that Europe could actually produce 190 Mtoe (million tonnes of oil equivalent) of bioenergy, in an environmentally viable fashion, by 2010. This could reach almost 300 Mtoe by 2030.
However, it is crucial that Europe manages any proposed rise in the production of biomass in line with other community policies and objectives aiming to protect biodiversity and reduce waste. The report calls for the implementation of environmental guidelines at local, national and European level to achieve this.
There are also possibilities for synergies between the large scale production of bioenergy and the environment. For example, innovative bioenergy crops such as perennial grasses as well as short rotation forestry can combine high yields with relatively low environmental pressures. They can even be beneficial as they add to the diversity of landscapes, the report says.See report: How much bioenergy can Europe produce without harming the environment?