More clarity for EU Clean Energy Package Material supplied by Nathalie Hemeleers, Policy Director, European Biomass Association.
ver the last year, bioenergy has been a central topic at EU- level as stakeholders
and institutions joined hands (and occasionally shook fists) to set the framework for the EU’s energy policy until 2030.
Since the publication of the ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’ package in late 2016, the debates and negotiations have been incessant. As some of the key files for the sector finally reach maturity, they will progress to the next stage of inter-institutional negotiation, also known as trialogues, which are likely keep policymakers busy for the better part of 2018.
The recast of the renewable energy directive has certainly received the biggest share of media attention, especially the articles concerning its general framework. Discussions on the targets for 2030 remain unresolved as the schism between the ambitions of the European Parliament’s (EP) initial 35% renewable energy target clashes with the more conservative member states’ proposal of 27%. However, to the general public, the binding EU-level target remains visibly weaker than that of the previous decade, which was binding at member state level and, as such, far easier to enforce. The target should be at least 35%. The renewable energy directive also includes the first-ever provision setting targets for renewable heating and cooling (RES-H&C), opening a debate on a previously neglected topic. The lack of ambition shown by EU institutions is regrettable: the European Commission’s original proposal of increasing the share of RES-H&C by 1% per year falls short. Proposals to increase this figure have been tabled, but without any suggestion that such measures may ever become
binding. This could become a missed opportunity, considering that nearly half of the EU’s energy use is consumed by this sector. This is also the sector to which biomass contributes most, with bioheat representing 89% of all RES-H&C in the 28 members of the EU in 2015 and 16% of total EU gross final heat consumption for the same year.
The directive also sees that sustainability criteria – previously limited to biofuels and bioliquids – are extended to all biomass fuels. This resulted in an uproar, especially as the EP’s Environment Committee obtained exclusive competence over the sustainability chapter. The latter eventually proposed less stringent legislation than many had anticipated, as political negotiations and compromises led to the gradual harmonisation of even the most extreme outliers. Eventually, deliberations in Parliament came to a conclusion following a plenary vote in mid- January. The majority rejected a proposed ban on roundwood and approved measures on sustainability, which present some new challenges and requirements for the industry, but which do not critically undermine its existence and function, thus confirming its proportionate and pragmatic approach.
In other files, the energy efficiency directive was approved by the EP with a solid binding target of 35%. This important result confirms an inversion of trend when compared to the previous decade. The strategic focus has now shifted from the proliferation of renewables to a preference for enhanced efficiency measures. A beneficial synergy exists between energy efficiency measures and the development of renewables and these two subjects need to be tackled together. Both deserve ambitious targets, otherwise one may erode the progress of the other in absolute terms.
Another noteworthy and often disregarded file is the one on governance, which sets the rules
for the practical implementation of the aforementioned targets, both binding and non-binding, as well as the rules for member states reporting on their respective progress. Despite being frequently contested at EU level, bioenergy continues to play an essential role in its energy landscape. In 2017, bioenergy alone generated enough energy to theoretically cover the entire energy needs of the EU for 41 days – more than any other renewable energy source.
Award for pan-European bioenergy campaign
Throughout 2017, AEBIOM led a major pan-European awareness campaign: the European Bioenergy Day. The campaign shone a light on the central role of bioenergy in achieving the EU’s clean energy goals by showing that from 21 November until the end of the year, the EU could solely rely on bioenergy for its energy consumption. This campaign’s success was rewarded by the jury of the 2018 European Association Awards, who nominated it ‘Best Communications Campaign by an Association with a Secretariat with more than ten people’. It
AEBIOM Communications Director Jean-Baptiste Boucher (centre) was presented with the Award in Brussels on 23 February.
is the second year in a row that AEBIOM has been awarded a similar prize – last year, it was the case for our 2017 Statistical Report, nominated ‘Best Provision of Industry Information and Intelligence’.
This campaign is not over, as all interested bioenergy companies can provide success stories through the AEBIOM website.
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