EU stops subsidy for biomass and wood as co-firing in power plant

The European Union will no longer encourage the use of wood pellets as a sustainable fuel for power stations. As a result, forestry in densely forested EU countries is losing an important source of income, much to the dissatisfaction of the European agricultural umbrella organization Copa-Cogeca. 

The end of financial support for 'primary biomass' is a slap in the face for thousands of forest owners and bioenergy producers, says Copa-Cogeca. Most Dutch MEPs no longer regard co-firing with wood as sustainable energy.

For years, the power plants in the EU ran solely on oil or gas or coal. In order to save fuel costs, wood has been used more and more as a 'co-firing' in recent years. The EU initially encouraged this for environmental reasons. An entire wood pellet industry has emerged from this, such as in Finland, Sweden, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Balkans.

However, biomass may still be used as co-firing in the coming years because the restriction will be introduced in phases. The new guideline states that no more biomass may be burned in the EU than was the case in the past five years. 

The European Parliament decided this week that due to the current energy crisis, the use of fossil energy sources should be reduced as soon as possible, and that the EU should be up to 45% solar and wind energy within eight years. A proposal by the Greens to expand that share of 'renewable energy' did not make it. 

A proposal by the Christian Democrats to maintain the wood pellet subsidy also failed. MEP Peter van Dalen (ChristenUnie) is not happy with the compromise for a gradual reduction over a few years, but has nevertheless agreed because a complete stop was not feasible. That is why Anja Hazenkamp (PvdD) voted against.

Van Dalen said that the Netherlands is not doing too badly in this area: “If I look at Eastern Europe, subsidizing biomass could encourage deforestation. That cannot be the intention.”