National Biomass Action Plan for Germany: beyond criticism

Every European country is bound to find the way out of the energetic problem due to the fall of the fossil fuels amounts. That is why the member states of the EU should set the National Biomass Action Plan in order to make the energy supply of their countries more efficient and more environmentally friendly. Thus, Germany is no exception and follows the targets set by the European renewable energy directive. The most important instrument for biomass energy policy implementation in the country is National Biomass Action Plan of Germany.

National Biomass Action Plan for Germany: Introduction

Germany, just as any other country in the world, now faces two great challenges: the first one is to make the consequences of climate change less severe and the second one is to find certain raw materials and energy sources and provide for their constant sustainable supply. This can be mainly achieved by replacing fossil fuels such as oil and gas with so called renewable energy sources, and energy can be saved through cutting down the amount of energy consumption as well as by making energy more efficient. And biomass is undoubtedly one of the most important factors contributing to the fulfillment of these two tasks.

Biomass action

At the moment biomass is actually the only renewable source of energy that can provide for the long-term and stable supply of heat, electricity and fuel as well as for the security of energy. The usage of biomass also means more fresh opportunities in the spheres of industry and rural development, not only in Germany but in other countries. Thus, in December 2005 the EU Biomass Action Plan was introduced by the EU Commission in order to support the promotion of biomass-generated electricity. Member states of the EU were then urged to prepare their own national action plans in accordance with the EU one. The main goal of the EU Biomass Action Plan is increasing the share of renewable energy in the current usage of energy from 8 up to 12 per cent in 2010. And In Germany, the National Biomass Action Plan aims basically at creating a whole new concept which will help to make the share of bioenergy in the energy supply of Germany substantially bigger as compared to what it is at the moment, at the same time taking into account certain sustainability criteria.

Bioenergy Use in Germany

First of all, it should be taken into account that yet in 2007 bioenergy usage in Germany provided 3, 9 per cent of used electricity in Germany, 6,1per cent of heat production and 7, 3 per cent of overall fuel consumption.

The available potential field of biomass growth in Germany remains agricultural and forestry industries, taking 17 million hectares of state’s territory.  As far as biomass potential in agriculture is concerned, most researchers make forecasts that between 2, 5 and 4 mln ha of arable land could be used in order to grow biomass crops for the energy production and consumption. This rate was approximately 1, 75 mln ha in 2007. In order to increase the amount of the produced biomass which will be used as a feedstock for energy production new legislative amendments to the agricultural laws are required. This step will be instrumental in the increasing of land productivity and will help to use the lands more effectively for the purpose of growing bigger amount of biomass crops.

Taking into account the substantial growth in biomass usage, which is supposed to achieve targets set for 2020, analysts predict the intensification of competition between various types of biomass and limited possibilities of cultivation areas. This situation may be observed in Germany on the regional level. Moreover, the conservation of species and plants should be taken into account, which is also a barrier for the cultivation areas development. Due to the fact that the current biomass energy production, in which all types of bioenergy are taken into account, consists of heat (45%), electricity (30%) and fuel production (25%), only small part of domestically produced biomass will be consumed in 2020. The usage of domestic or exported biomass will depend on market prices. At the moment it is more appropriate to use exported biomass, which is much cheaper and economically viable.

Aims and Strategy of Biomass usage in Germany

The concept of the German National Biomass Action Plan pursues particular goals, the main of which are as follows: first of all, it aims at lessening the ruining effects of climate change; secondly, its task is to secure the supply of energy and energy sources and give a spur to the economic development in the country. Some other aims should also be taken into account. They are: the reduction of greenhouse gases; playing a role in biodiversity preservation; providing for the fertility of soil; preventing water and air contamination. The Action Plan also serves the purpose of preserving and protecting natural landscapes as well as places and areas with protected status. Moreover, it should contribute greatly to the employment sector, mainly in suburban areas.

Strategy of biomass usage in Germany

Thus, in order to achieve these goals, there must be a substantial rise of the share of bioenergy in energy demand-the share must go up from 792 PJ in 2007 to 1,309 PJ in 2020 at the least.

In order to expand the usage of bioenergy, certain strategies must be applied. The most important of them are: the use of bioenergy must mainly fall at the heat, fuel and electricity sectors; a range of technologies which would correspond to the needs of the production of bioenergy must become available on the market (e.g. biomass condensing boilers and electricity-generating technologies); the production of biomass must use efficient management practices in order to prevent any negative consequences for both the environment and the society; the viability of bioenergy must be improved in a way so that it could compete more effectively with fossil fuels. Besides, certain strategies must be developed in order to make a contribution to the reduction of potential greenhouse gas emissions as well as to provide for a more affective integration of energy crops into cultural landscapes for the purpose of nature preservation.

Promoting Bioenergy in Germany

Biomass is capable of broadening the horizon of energetic opportunities. But just like biomass used for food and feed, the feedstock grown for the purpose of energy production should be grown sustainably. This is required in order to prevent damaging impacts on the environment. The biggest apprehensions in Germany regarding bioenergy usage are connected with negative consequences which may be caused by non-sustainable production.

Promoting bioenergy in Germany

A lot of steps are made towards securing the development of biomass usage. First of all, the authorities provide good farming practices and good forest practices, monitoring which is supposed to lead to the sustainability of production. Secondly, the country is doing everything possible in order to provide sustainability standards which are going to help to produce good and environmentally friendly production. Thus, a lot of sustainability criteria and corresponding certification are implemented on the national, international and European levels. Two main laws which include the required criteria on the European level are Renewable Energy Directive and Fuel Quality Directive. The most important law in Germany which defines biomass sustainability criteria is The Renewable Energy Heat Act.

Summary and Outlook

Bioenergy covers 5 per cent of the overall energy needs in Germany for today. In the future this number should reach 20 per cent, according to the European renewable energy action plan set for 2020. Bioenergy is a very effective source of energy and most of the EU member states see their future exactly in this type of energy. It will help to increase the efficiency of energy consumption, save costs and avoid climatic changes by reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. That is why renewable action plans are required in order to reach the appropriate level of sustainability and find the key ways of biomass usage implementation.

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