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Biomass: new, troubling data on use and subsidies in the EU

9 November 2021

Biomass: new, troubling data on use and subsidies in the EU

A report commissioned by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy (DG ENER) offers very interesting insights on EU subsidies for renewable energy: providing details on the EU-wide figure for these subsidies, the proportion each Member State subsidises renewable energy, and the proportion of each Member State's Gross Domestic Prodcut (GDP) that this represents.

The report “Study on energy subsidies and other government interventions in the European Union”, was carried out by Enerdata and Trinomics, and shows very similar results to the study that Trinomics produced for Fern earlier this year.  

On biomass, the report’s main findings are:

  • The overall level of subsidies has remained stable since 2015, with a slight reduction in 2020, at EUR 16 billion – significantly higher than the EUR 10.3 billion noted in the Commission’s Impact Assessment of its Renewable Energy Directive revision proposal.
  • Highly forested countries (Austria, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Sweden, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia) plus Denmark allocate more Renewable Energy Services (RES) subsidies to biomass than any other technology . For the top three, Estonia, Latvia and Sweden, biomass receives at least 70 per cent of the country’s total RES subsidies. Biomass subsidies in Germany represent a high share of their GDP. This is also the case in Italy, Spain, France, Austria and Denmark.

This needs to be seen against the backdrop of what is happening in Europe’s forests. The size of the EU-27 land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) carbon sink is shrinking yearly (FW 258). In 2005, the EU’s carbon sink was -311 Mt carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e); by 2019 it was roughly 249 Mt CO2e. The cause is increased logging in forests, driven largely by the demand for bioenergy, that has increased roughly 20 per cent since 2000 (exact logging levels are a matter of fierce debate between EU institutions, industry and Member States).

To have any hope of meeting the EU’s climate and biodiversity targets in the real world, stronger data on logging is needed to monitor forests’ evolution. More political will is also needed: Member States will have to let go of the convenient lie that biomass is a climate solution, stop rewarding the systemic burning of forests during a climate crisis, and support healthier forestry practices and cleaner energy sources.

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Categories: Forest watch, Bioenergy

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