How much sustainable biomass does Europe have in 2030?

European heads of state have agreed that in 2030, 27% of Europe’s energy should come from renewable sources. Not all renewables are sustainable though; for instance, food-based biofuels as well as burning whole trees imported from the US in EU power plants has come in for a lot of criticism.

Therefore, Birdlife and T&E investigated how much sustainable biomass is likely to be available for bioenergy in Europe in 2030. We found that about 152 Mtoe (million tonnes of oil equivalent) of sustainable biomass is foreseen to be available for bioenergy in 2030 in the EU. This is 15-21% below the projected EU bioenergy use in 2030, depending on the scenario.

In 2014, bioenergy accounted for 64.1% of Europe’s renewable energy sources. However, our analysis shows that sustainable biomass from agricultural and forestry residues would make up only 30% of the amount of renewables needed to meet the EU’s 2030 climate targets.

In addition to not having enough sustainable biomass, there is also a mismatch in the type (e.g. roundwood, forestry and agricultural residues, waste) of biomass currently used for energy and the type of sustainable biomass available. Policies on bioenergy sustainability need to ensure that bioenergy demand is limited to the amount of sustainable biomass supply for energy and apply binding criteria to ensure:

  1. Significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings from bioenergy;
  2. No adverse impacts to the natural environment;
  3. Resource efficient use of biomass, in line with cascading use principle and the waste hierarchy.