The Worldwide Vitality Company (IEA) has acknowledged “weaknesses” in how biomass vitality is counted in nationwide statistics after a number of EU nations reported a sudden enhance in residential wooden burning to fulfill their 2020 renewable vitality targets.
Biomass is commonly portrayed as an ignored vitality large, with the European Fee saying it’s “the primary supply of renewable vitality within the EU, with a share of just about 60%” – greater than wind and photo voltaic mixed.
But, specialists agree these figures are most likely overstated due to the best way biomass is counted in EU renewable vitality statistics, particularly when it’s burned for heating.
“The worst approach to burn biomass is to do it in an open hearth,” mentioned Jan Rosenow, director of European programmes on the Regulatory Help Mission (RAP), a think-tank specialised in clear vitality.
In line with Rosenow, round 30% of the vitality contained in a wooden log is remodeled into usable warmth when burned in a hearth, whereas the remaining 70% is simply misplaced and “goes up your chimney”.
Nonetheless, that isn’t mirrored in official EU statistics, which assume that 100% of the biomass is burned effectively.
In contrast, different renewable heating applied sciences like warmth pumps, which run on electrical energy, are measured based on a unique metric: vitality output, or helpful vitality.
The consequence, based on Rosenow, is that biomass-based heating appears to be like disproportionately greater than it truly is within the EU’s official statistical reviews.
“Biomass is counted in main vitality phrases, not helpful vitality. If you happen to used helpful vitality excluding vitality waste, it could most likely be quite a bit much less,” he informed EURACTIV in an interview.
IEA admits ‘weaknesses’ within the methodology
The “main vitality” metric used for measuring biomass isn’t just mirrored in EU statistics, it’s a world conference that can also be utilized by most nations worldwide in addition to the United Nations and the Worldwide Vitality Company.
Fatih Birol, the IEA’s govt director, acknowledged that the statistical hole between main and helpful vitality was problematic and must be addressed.
“It’s a very good level, which requires superb consideration,” Birol informed EURACTIV when requested about the best way biomass vitality is reported in vitality statistics.
“The present methodology, I consider has some weaknesses,” he acknowledged, saying the problem “deserves cautious consideration by our governments and likewise by the business”.
“However I admit, there are some weaknesses.”
Birol spoke to EURACTIV on 30 November whereas on a go to to Brussels to advertise warmth pumps as a clear vitality different to Russian fossil fuel.
In a latest IEA report, Birol mentioned warmth pumps have been “an indispensable a part of any plan to chop emissions and pure fuel use” as a result of they’re hyper-efficient, climate-friendly, and assist shoppers scale back vitality consumption.
Nonetheless, statistical conventions at present make warmth pumps and different electrical heating options look insignificant compared to biomass, whose contribution to the EU’s renewable heating targets is calculated in main vitality phrases.
Worse, the statistical loophole acts as an incentive for EU nations to encourage wood-burning as an vitality supply to fulfill their renewable vitality targets, Rosenow mentioned.
“The best way it’s being handled underneath the renewable vitality directive is that the extra biomass you burn, the higher it’s to your goal,” he defined.
“EU nations which have a really excessive share of renewable warmth are usually the nations that burn lots of biomass. And in the event that they burn it inefficiently, it’s even higher as a result of they get extra credit score.”
“It actually is senseless however that’s the best way the statistics are being accomplished,” Rosenow informed EURACTIV.
International warming affect
The inclusion of biomass as a renewable heating supply has implications past statistics: It is also a big driver of worldwide warming emissions, campaigners say.
To realize local weather neutrality by 2050, the EU has set targets for elevated CO2 storage in forests, soils and different land sinks, which suck carbon dioxide from the ambiance and assist mitigate international heating.
However based on latest analysis, the European Union is quickly dropping its forest carbon sink, with wooden harvesting for biomass a key driver behind the loss.
“There’s a clear hyperlink between biomass harvesting and land sink loss in some member states,” based on the Partnership for Coverage Integrity (PFPI), a US-based non-profit, which printed the analysis final November.
Biomass vitality consumption greater than doubled throughout the EU since 1990, with a lot of the enhance occurring since 2002, after the EU issued its first directive together with biomass as renewable vitality, the researchers discovered.
For the authors of the research, EU biomass insurance policies should urgently be modified as a way to cease the lack of Europe’s forest carbon sink and maintain international warming underneath management.
“Attaining local weather stability would require a a lot bigger quantity of carbon storage in forests, which might be not possible until biomass harvesting is considerably decreased,” the report mentioned.
EU nations report sudden enhance in residential wooden burning
Amongst EU nations, a number of governments have already taken benefit of the statistical loophole.
On the flip of the final decade, a number of member states reported sudden will increase in residential wooden burning, permitting them to fulfill their 2020 renewable vitality targets agreed at EU stage.
This was the case for instance in Hungary, which revised its methodology for assessing residential wooden use in 2015 and utilized it retroactively from 2010.
“The consequence was a 250% enhance in a single day in reported residential wooden consumption, which then allowed Hungary to say it had exceeded its EU-mandated renewable vitality goal at the moment,” says a 2020 report by PFPI founder Mary S. Sales space and researcher Ben Mitchell.
Startlingly, even unburnt wooden is counted in EU statistics as renewable vitality, the PFPI report discovered.
However Hungary was not the one EU nation utilizing the statistical trick.
In Slovakia, the share of renewables within the vitality combine instantly jumped from 11.9% to 16.9% in 2019 after a survey was carried out amongst households to estimate their use of biomass in heating and cooling.
And in Poland, media reported an identical change in methodology exhibiting a lot higher use of wooden in home boilers, fireplaces and kitchens, the PFPI report mentioned.
In line with researcher Mary S. Sales space, it’s unhealthy sufficient that unburned residential heating wooden is being counted towards the EU’s renewable vitality targets.
“However a probably even greater scandal is that a number of nations have ‘revised’ their estimates of how a lot wooden is burned for residential heating, thereby permitting them to instantly obtain their renewable vitality targets,” she informed EURACTIV by way of electronic mail.
Because of this, burning strong biomass accounted for about 40% of vitality counted towards the EU’s renewables goal in 2020, based on the PFPI report.
Brussels declines to remark
The European Fee, which oversees the gathering of knowledge from member states by way of its company Eurostat, declined to remark when requested by EURACTIV in regards to the statistical concern with biomass.
Nonetheless, one EU supply aware of the matter informed EURACTIV it could be too demanding to recalculate the info.
“Information for helpful vitality should not collected as European statistics as it could impose an extreme burden on the reporting system for vitality statistics,” the supply mentioned, talking on situation of anonymity.
Moreover, biomass shouldn’t be the one vitality supply whose statistical contribution is calculated on the idea of main vitality use, the supply added, saying that “precisely the identical methodology” is used for “all flamable fuels” in statistical conventions.
“Stable biofuels (biomass) are handled precisely the identical as pure fuel and heating oil for example,” the EU supply mentioned.
In line with Rosenow, the reluctance to alter can also be brought on by resistance from Nordic nations and Austria, which have achieved excessive shares of renewable vitality due to biomass.
Altering the methodology “would mainly make them look quite a bit worse,” he mentioned. “And this can be a main stumbling block on this dialogue”.
The bioenergy business, for its half, dismissed recommendations that biomass is given disproportionate significance in EU statistics as a result of calculation methodology.
“It is because utilizing vitality output as an alternative of vitality enter can be flawed and deceptive by way of knowledge, contemplating the flexibility and variety current in biomass-fuelled home equipment,” mentioned Bioenergy Europe, a commerce affiliation.
Reasonably, it mentioned knowledge for family use of biomass “is probably going an underestimation” due to the biomass domestically harvested on personal property, which isn’t bought available on the market.
“All renewable options are obligatory, and our efforts should deal with rising the share of renewable vitality and ending our reliance on unsustainable fossil fuels,” the affiliation informed EURACTIV in an emailed assertion.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]