Wood biomass can be a valuable renewable alternative to limited fossil fuels, but there still remains a lack of awareness and knowledge, that comes with it. Biomass energy systems offer significant possibilities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions due to their immense potential to replace fossil fuels in energy production, but on the other side biomass may emit more carbon per unit of energy than fossil fuels when burning. That is unless biomass fuels are produced in a sustainable manner. If biomass harvesting causes deforestation to meet the growing demand for wood fuel in the EU, this can lead to increased carbon in the atmosphere. Because trees take time to regrow, unsustainable harvesting and burning biomass reduces forests’ ability to absorb carbon, which in the end, can lead to CO2 being released in the air just like burning any other carbon fuel.
EU is trying to ensure biomass consumed in Europe only comes from sustainably managed forests – ensuring steady supply of energy and at the same time not compromising the opportunities for future generations to benefit from forests. Biomass supply chain involves forestry, cultivation, harvesting, processing, storage, transportation and consumption and sustainability must concern all these aspects – from forest management up to biomass combustion.
- Site productivity: for biomass to be sustainable, protection of soil must be ensured, which relies on careful harvesting practices to reduce physical soil disturbance and reducing contamination of streams and waterbodies.
- Biodiversity conservation: management of natural forests must emphasise conservation of critical habitat and balancing the vegetation structure, growth stages and forest ecosystems over time.
- Carbon Balance: To keep the balance, CO2emissions must be reduced and deforestation must be replaced with afforestation, protecting the carbon stocks in forests and providing an opportunity for forests to be able to grow and restore their ecological potential for carbon storage.
- Location: Ideally for wood biomass is to be locally provided (ideally within a distance of 30-40 km). Local biomass can be vital for supporting local and regional economy and development of decentralised bioenergy markets can have many positive benefits. It also reduces costs of transportation and GHG emissions from transports.
- Quality: the quality is essential for wood biomass to be climate and eco-friendly energy source. The international quality standards on solid biofuels have been developed and have been adopted into national standards at least in all EU countries. In addition to standards, certification is growing. There are both national and international certification schemes, aiming to ensure that standards are being followed. Current product certification schemes in place are mostly for wood pellets, the most common being ENplus, followed by DINplus. Both certification schemes exist also for briquettes but are not as widely spread. In the domain of wood chips and firewood currently there are no widely spread international certifications. In addition to product certificates large part of European forests are also managed through forest certificate schemes, most commonly through FSC or PEFC systems, ensuring that management of commercial forests is verifiable and sustainable.
- Clean heating: For biomass heating systems, the choice of fuel is the first priority. The right fuel is crucial for a clean and efficient combustion process. Follow our tips to ensure clean heating in your household!