Bioheat: a future-proof solution to achieve the Fit for 55 objectives

The report delivers recent statistics on the current situation of bioheat, looking at the renewable energy share in the heating and cooling sector, as well as the dynamics and market trends on the final consumption in residential and industrial heat processes.

Brussels, 13 September 2021 – Bioenergy Europe is pleased to announce the release of its 2021 Statistical Report Bioheat and its accompanying Policy Brief. This report analyses the current state of play of biomass in the heating sector.

Bioenergy is often linked to power generation, but numbers tell a different story with bioheat accounting for 74% of all bioenergy consumption in the EU. Furthermore, according to the latest Eurostat data, in 2019 renewables in heating (RES-H) were 22,1%. In the same year, biomass represented 85% of all RES-H allowing a reduction in emissions by approximately 160MtCO2eq. A further breakdown per sector shows that:

  • Renewables for domestic heating accounted for 24%, with bioheat covering 84,3% of total RES
  • Renewables in districts represented 27,6%, with bioenergy (96,5%) tripling since 2000
  • Renewables in industry accounted for 14,2% and are almost entirely covered by bioenergy (99,9%)

The heating sector still heavily relies on fossil fuels (accounting for 78% of heat and 34% of all GHG emissions in Europe). The EU cannot afford to delay its commitment to a higher RES-H penetration. The recent proposals under the Fit for 55 package mark a step in the right direction offering a necessary re-focus on the decarbonisation of the heating sector. but this must be accompanied by concrete measures. With the right framework in place, bioenergy can enable this transition and deliver on the EU’s heat decarbonisation goals.

The current situation in the heating sector is worrying. According to the Commissions assessment on heating technologies, 27% of appliances were installed before 1992. Today, around 60% of the EU heating stock would be considered energy labelling class C, D, or even lower due to very poor efficiency. Biomass-based systems are part of the solution by providing constant technological advancements and more innovative and efficient heating systems. Replacing old and fossil-based appliances with efficient and affordable biomass technologies will lower GHG emissions, increase efficiency and savings, whilst reducing pollution and improving air quality.

Air pollution and efficiency you say? Imagine the difference between a cosy open fire and a modern highly efficient stove. An old open fire emits the same amount of fine particles of 200-300 modern bioheat appliances. Yes, bioenergy has its place in the decarbonisation of the heating sector, in particular in those areas where the use of other RES technologies, let alone fossil fuel systems, would result in suboptimal alternatives.

Beyond domestic heating, RES penetration in the overall EU heating system must be prioritised. In this respect, biomass-based district heating provides a concrete solution to further boost fuel switch. Since 2000 bioenergy in district heating has tripled reaching a share of 96,5% of all RES combined in 2019. This remarkable increase proves once more that bioheat provides a viable energy-efficient solution both at individual and district levels, and represents a perfect example of sector integration.

“The Fit for 55 is a unique opportunity to further promote solutions such as sustainable bioenergy to decarbonise this sector." states Bioenergy Europe Secretary General, Jean-Marc Jossart. “The EU must establish a clear strategy to phase out fossil-based heating and replace old systems with modern bioheat ones to increase efficiency and reduce air pollution and emissions. The bioenergy sector is deeply committed to achieve the Green Deal's goals, while being economically very affordable for citizens”, he concludes.

The proposed EU target to reduce emissions by at least 55% GHG by 2030 and zero net emissions by 2050, re­quires a rapid phasing out of fossil fuels in all sectors of the European economy. In this regard, both heating and industry sectors are lagging behind. Pellets is one of the readily available and economically affordable solutions to phase out fossil fuels from the power sector, industrial processes, and residential heating.

Overall, the Statistical Report on Pellets sets out a number of essential recommendations for policy makers moving forward. Indeed, a stable policy framework is essential for giving a sufficiently long-term perspective to companies to further invest in pellet production and use, helping further climate change mitigation efforts. Besides, unlocking the support through the renovation wave, to allow citizens to switch from fossil fuel appliances to modern and efficient pellet solutions, is key. Lastly, tailored measures to support the upscaling of bioenergy solutions in medium scale markets such as schools, hospitals and residential buildings should be carefully designed and implemented.

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