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Biomass and the EU Heating and Cooling strategy

15 October 2015

As the EU discusses a new Heating and Cooling Strategy, to be published by the European Commission in this month, various industry lobbies representing the bioenergy, electricity, manufacturing and heating industry are fighting over where the EU should focus its subsidies.

While the bioenergy and other energy industry lobbies argue that replacing heating systems is a more cost-efficient option to cut emissions than insulation improvements, building manufacturers underline that focusing on energy efficiency that reduces the consumption of energy, e.g. insulation in buildings, would bring the ‘largest societal benefits and avoid lock-in effects’. Fern agrees with the latter.

Biomass makes up 84 per cent of all the renewable energy used in the heating and cooling sector, and this constitutes around 40 percent of all the renewable energy produced in the EU.

Replacing heating systems, even if more efficient, will maintain high levels of energy consumption (including of bioenergy) if buildings are not better insulated. For real CO2 savings and investments for the long term, Fern believes we should instead lower energy demand by insulating housing. This would not only reduce people’s energy bills, but also demand for biomass and other sources of energy, which is currently increasing sharply.

Fern underlines the importance of recognising the wider, long-term environmental and climate impacts of the different options, as well as cost-efficiency in the long term.

All energy forms have an impact on the climate, not least energy from biomass, which emits CO₂ at comparable levels to fossil fuels. A reduction in energy use should therefore be the main focus of the EU and Member States.

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