Is biomass a really renewable energy?

The excessive use of this energy source poses a threat to fertile lands and forests.

A Friends of the Earth report reveals the need to limit the use of biomass as an energy source. Despite being known as a renewable energy source , the document indicates that, if limits and criteria are not established in its definition, biomass would imply an excessive use of arable and forest lands.

 Biomass can be another source of energy among the renewables to be used, but with great restrictions, since if it were to double its current use in 2030, it would be necessary to use the land equivalent to the areas of Sweden and Poland to provide crops and forest material.

 These data have been revealed by the latest study published by Friends of the Earth Europe, prepared by the University of Vienna.

 Biomass comprises the use of crops, wood and the biodegradable fraction of the waste , for the generation of heat, electricity and fuel. It can be considered a renewable energy source, however its massive use implies excessive and unsustainable land use, as reflected in the study.

 To achieve the necessary reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, no other additional problems can be created. Therefore, the use of biomass must be moderate and restricted in order to guarantee that only forest and agricultural residues are used.

 “The use of natural resources by Europe is already excessive, we cannot implement policies and actions that follow this path,” said Alodia Pérez, head of the Natural Resources and Waste area. The land is a clear example: Europe needs three times its surface to produce the products and energy of its current consumption. It is essential to measure the use of our resources and set limits to it ”, Pérez stressed.

 Heating and electricity from wood already represents the highest soil footprint in Europe, around 30 million hectares of forest in 2010, which is expected to be 40 in 2030. If all the wood came from Europe, it would be 40 % of its forest area.

 “If we want to use biomass as a renewable energy source, we have to understand that it has a limited scope and can only be considered sustainable within reasonable limits and without putting pressure on land uses or forests. Therefore, the way to use it goes first through efficiency and energy saving, to minimize our energy needs. For example, public housing rehabilitation policies are necessary to minimize energy and heating needs, which will also achieve very significant energy savings ”, stated Alejandro González, head of the climate and energy area at Friends of the Earth.

 Friends of the Earth requests a reasonable use of biomass. In other words, biomass is obtained exclusively from forest and agricultural residues, managed in a sustainable way, without exceeding its regeneration capacity and without causing new impacts. Only in this way can biomass be considered a renewable source. In no case should primary materials be considered biomass, that is, grown or planted expressly for energy use.

Likewise, the biodegradable fraction of the waste must be managed through composting to obtain a quality compost for our soils; the incineration of organic matter would not represent a renewable energy source.


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