New report details way forward as future biomass demand may exceed supply

Material Economics, supported by EIT Climate-KIC, has recently published a new study on European biomass use for a net-zero economy—the first report to model the EU’s 2050 demand for biomass feedstocks from all sectors and compare it to a realistic biomass supply.

Bioenergy (energy produced from biomass) use in Europe is increasing, having grown by 150 per cent since 2000, in response to policy incentives. Many scenarios foresee massive additional growth in biomass use, with some showing a 70 to 150 per cent increase in biomass use for energy and materials by 2050. This would require an area the size of Germany (350–400 000km2) to be dedicated to energy crops alone or additional ca. 340 million tonnes of forest wood per year, equalling 77 per cent of the net annual growth of all of the EU’s forests.

An urgent course correction is thus needed to ensure that most future biomass is reserved for use in high value materials and chemicals. In an effort to balance potentially available supplies of biomass with the highest-value sources of demand, the report presents a new modelling framework to compare the economic and environmental performance of different applications of biomass. The key findings show that using biomass for energy should be restricted to certain specialist niches—including in industrial heat and aviation.

“Biomass is scarce and valuable, and it cannot meet all needs. Expectations for future use add up to 50 to 100 per cent more than what we should count on being available, so there is massive value at stake in getting our priorities right for the limited feedstock we have. As our study shows, tomorrow’s high-value use of biomass will look very different from yesterday’s expectations, and both business leaders and policymakers will need to adjust,” said Partner Per Klevnäs of Material Economics.

The study demonstrates the urgent need to prioritise biomass, but calls for caution on balancing demand and supply, finding that the optimal future for biomass use is highly targeted, prioritising the most valuable uses where the properties of biomass make it the greatest contributor to a net-zero economy, or where alternatives are likely to remain too expensive.

“The EU needs to have a serious look into the amount of biomass available and agree on what are the best ways to use it from the viewpoint of the economy and mitigation of climate crisis and biodiversity loss,” said Project Director Janne Peljo of the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra.

Read the report

 

This report, published by Materials Economics, is supported by the Energy Transitions Commission and European Forest Institute, and funded by EIT Climate-KIC, the European Climate Foundation, the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra and Vinnova.

 
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Sustainable Land Use
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Goal 6: Nurture forests in integrated landscapes
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