* Calls for review on EU policy
* Some bioenergy more damaging than fossil fuel
By Barbara Lewis
LUXEMBOURG, Oct 25 EU carbon-cutting efforts
will fall short of target because they rely on a false
assumption biomass used for heat and power is emissions-free, a
report said on Thursday.
The findings of the Institute for European Environment
Policy reinforce concerns already raised by climate campaigners
that EU environment policy is fundamentally flawed.
Already, the Commission, the EU's executive, has had to
propose revised targets on biofuel for transport because of
competition with food crops and their impact on land-use.
"At present there is no basis for presuming that EU
bioenergy use to 2020 will deliver emission savings, and a
significant risk that it may result in additional emissions,"
the report concludes. "Policies based on this misapprehension
need to be reviewed."
To achieve a 2020 goal to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent
compared with 1990 levels and increase the share of renewable
energy in the mix to 20 percent, also by the end of the decade,
EU nations are increasingly depending on biomass.
Made from woody pellets, forest residues and other kinds of
waste, biomass is expected to account for about half of the
share of renewables in the EU energy mix.
So far, this fuel has been assumed to be carbon-neutral on
the grounds any emissions generated when it is burnt for heat or
power are offset instantly by the regrowth of more biomass.
GOOD VERSUS BAD BIOMASS
But the report finds only certain forms of bioenergy, such
as genuine waste, address the problem, while other forms, such
as wood pellets made from felled wood, could prove more damaging
than fossil fuel.
"The net effects on the climate, ie the full global warming
impact, may range from better to substantially worse," it said.
In particular, it points to a time lag, potentially lasting
for decades, between harvesting a tree and growing enough new
forestry biomass to compensate.
The use of bioenergy is expected to expand as many EU
governments and the industry rely on it as a relatively cheap
way to shift from carbon-intensive coal and at the same time
provide baseload power to complement intermittent green sources,
such as wind.
Already primary energy production from wood and wood waste
grew by 38 percent between 2003 and 2010, the report said,
citing Eurostat data.
Environmental campaigners say there is an urgent need for
the EU to agree sustainability criteria to ensure only the right
kind of biomass is used.
"It is ridiculous that the EU stimulates the development of
so much biomass to cover the ever increasing energy need without
actually finding out whether it saves emissions," Trees Robijns
of BirdLife International said.
Utilities argue biomass even from trees, rather than
residues, can be sustainable when forests are managed properly
and growth outpaces consumption.
A spokesman for RWE Innogy, which has a large
biomass pellet plant in Georgia, the United States, said the
company had "a very strong focus on key sustainability
(Editing by James Jukwey)