How to optimise the use of bioenergy for Europe’s climate efforts

News Published 12 Nov 2008 Last modified 21 Jun 2016
2 min read
Bioenergy can substantially reduce Europe's greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to achieving the EU's renewable energy target, says a new report by the European Environment Agency. Such benefits, however, can only be realised if policy and economic incentives are in place to minimise the potential negative impacts of bioenergy production.

The report "Maximising the environmental benefits of Europe’s bioenergy potential" analyses what bioenergy can offer Europe in terms of climate mitigation and energy security and what role it can play in Europe's future energy mix. The report quantifies the benefits to be gained through the optimal use of the EU's domestic bioenergy potential.

Substantial emission reductions possible

Bioenergy produced within the EU could lead to greenhouse gas emission reductions of up to 8 % in 2020 compared to the EU-25's 1990 levels, and up to 13 % in 2030, the report says.

Around 9.5 % of Europe’s final energy demand in 2020 could be met from bioenergy. This corresponds to almost half of the 20 % target being discussed by the European Union. In 2030, bioenergy’s share in the gross energy consumption of the EU-25 could reach 16 %. In this scenario, bioenergy would meet 18.1 % of European demand for heat, 12.5 % of electricity demand and 5.4 % of transport fuel demand (7% of the diesel and gasoline demand in road transport) in 2030.

The key role of policy

Increasing bioenergy production might have adverse effects on the environment, including soil erosion, threats to biodiversity and water resources, and changes in land use. Such adverse effects might jeopardise the EU's overall environmental goals.

On the other hand, an appropriate choice and management of energy crops can actually decrease soil erosion or water pollution risks from agricultural practices, and provide certain biodiversity benefits. Measures to protect soil and water resources as well as biodiversity are best taken at local and regional levels.

This report does not take into account potential imports of biomass and the possible impacts of EU bioenergy targets on the environment outside the EU. A complete understanding of the overall environmental impact and greenhouse gas balance of EU bioenergy policies requires a broader evaluation of their direct and indirect effects around the globe.

More information

Bioenergy is obtained from biomass – mainly biological plant material such as trees and crops, and organic waste. In addition to energy, plant biomass provides a wide range of products from food, feed, clothing, paper to construction materials.

For the technical potential for bioenergy production in EU-25, see EEA report "How much bioenergy can Europe produce without harming the environment?" and the related technical report " Estimating the environmentally compatible bioenergy potential from agriculture".

Additional information on the environmental effects of bioenergy production can be found on the Envirowindows site maintained by the EEA.


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