Briefing for EU Member States on bioenergy plans and policies

Posted on June, 26 2024

Bioenergy has a role to play in the decarbonisation of the EU energy system, but only where it provides significant, near term cuts in emissions compared to fossil fuels. Unfortunately the rules on bioenergy in the EU’s revised Renewable Energy Directive (RED) remain deeply flawed in this regard, and pending further changes to that Directive Member States must apply stricter conditions at national level to ensure that bioenergy delivers genuine climate benefits.
Specifically, when finalising their National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs), revising their national Long Term Strategies (LTSs), developing any national support schemes and transposing the new RED, they should:
  1. Ensure that they have comprehensive, reliable statistical data on the supply and use of biomass for energy, by feedstock and by sector, and its impact on the LULUCF sink, and that this information is made available in a timely, accessible and transparent manner.
  2. End all subsidies and other incentives for burning primary woody biomass, meaning tree trunks, branches and other material taken directly from the forest, regardless of which sector they’re used in (power, heating, transport etc.). As hundreds of eminent climate scientists have warned, and as the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) itself has made clear, burning trees can increase emissions for decades or even centuries compared to fossil fuels.
  3. End all subsidies and other incentives for biofuel or other energy crops that involve the dedicated use of land, regardless of which sector they’re used in (power, heating, transport etc.). The dedicated use of land for biofuel or other energy crops is unlikely to deliver climate benefits compared to growing food or feed, or letting the same land return to natural vegetation such as forest, and all fuels derived from such crops will therefore typically increase emissions compared to fossil fuels.
  4. Invest the billions of euros currently being spent on burning primary woody biomass and dedicated biofuel crops on alternative ways of substituting fossil fuels, including energy efficiency and other demand reduction measures, wind and solar power, geothermal energy, thermal storage, heat pumps (including community scale heat pumps linked to district heating systems) and synthetic fuels based on renewable hydrogen.
  5. Ensure that the use of biogenic wastes and residues for energy only benefits from subsidies or other incentives where those materials have no significant alternative uses, whether for food, animal feed or bio-based materials (the cascading use principle) and where their extraction does not negatively affect soil fertility or soil carbon sequestration. No subsidies or incentives should be provided for burning primary woody biomass even where it has no commercial value (see above).
  6. Prioritise the use of scarce bioenergy for niche sectors or purposes where it will add the highest value and/or deliver the greatest climate benefit.