Highlights Core Theme 4: Biomass Mobilisation and Sustainability

CT4 - 4th Plenary Meeting in Vienna

Headline 1: Impacts of New Provisions on Sustainability of Biomass Fuels Laid Down in the Revised Renewable Energy Directive

During the first CT4 session, the Commission presented an overview of the new requirements for biomass sustainability (land criteria and end-use criteria) included in the recast of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II). These criteria enhance resource efficiency and are required for biomass to be compliant with RES obligations and be eligible for financial support. Verification of compliance has been strengthened and bioenergy generators have to ensure an independent audit of the sustainability claim. Participating Member States then used the opportunity to come up with a common understanding of the provisions in order to aid not only the implementation of the current Directive, but also the RED II.  Prior to the session, a first inventory of questions from Member States on the interpretation of the new provisions in the RED2 on biomass sustainability was made in order to support the discussions. The CT4 participants were asked to break-out into smaller groups in order to discuss questions, such as the interpretation of land and end-use criteria, the compatibility of current (national/voluntary) sustainability schemes for solid, liquid and gaseous biomass, compliance issues with GHG emissions saving criteria and the impacts of new legislation on existing bioenergy installations. Member States are currently faced with several choices for verifying compliance. Verification can be achieved through national certification systems or international voluntary schemes. The EC will undertake an assessment of existing national systems for biomass fuels and will define detailed certification rules. Case studies on the compliance of existing tools with the new GHG savings criteria are necessary. Participating Member States requested that guidance from the European Commission would be greatly appreciated in coming up with a harmonized verification system. Further for following workshops examples of countries already verifying sustainability criteria for biomass fuels and examples of GHG emission savings calculations were requested to help implementation of these provisions.

Headline 2: Biomass Reporting Obligations on Biomass Residues and Waste

Based on Article 22(g) of the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC), Member States have to provide “detailed information on the biomass supply” and “describe the developments in the 2 preceding years in the availability and use of biomass resources for energy purposes” in their bi-annual progress report for the Renewable Energy Directive. The European Commission provides a template for this report; in particular, Table 4 – Biomass Supply for Energy Use has proven to be quite difficult to fill out for many Member States. During this session, Germany  presented the  approach and raised questions on challenges they faced when preparing the last Progress Report (December 2017).  EUROSTAT explained the relation between the data collected and the formal statistics used for renewable energy. Based on the current reporting experiences and on additional requirements arising from new regulations (e.g. governance regulation), recommendations were made to improve the reliability and quality of these reports by exchange of methods in a Task Force. The CT4 survey results and the discussions between the participating Member States came to the conclusion that data collection continues to be a difficult matter for most due to the high complexity and high costs associated with it. In most Member States, the availability and data quality is quite poor. Furthermore, various Member States need to make assumptions and adopt methodologies specific to their Member State. As a result, data cannot be easily compared between the Member States. There is a strong need for more transparency and harmonization across the EU, which could be done through the exchange of good practices between MS, via a global balance or the use of non-energy databases or statistics. 

Core Theme 4 & 5: Biomass Mobilisation & Sustainability and RES in Transport

Headline for the Joint Session: Biomethane in the Transport Sector

This joint session was led by Core Themes (CT) 4 and 5, after previous discussions in CT4 had shown a clear link between biogas mobilisation and transport policies, with many Member States planning to incentivise biomethane use in the transport sector. The CT4 and CT5 joint session consequently explored different aspects of the use of biomethane in the transport sector, cross-sectoral and cross-border challenges that arise in particular from the use of gas grids for the transport of the biomethane. The session started off with a presentation of the CT survey results, which showed that the current use of biomethane is still limited across Member States. While several Member States have started encouraging the use of biomethane in transport, more consideration still needs to be given to various questions as to the design of such support scheme with more specific priorities to be set. This includes, for example, an assessment in which sector biomethane is best used to achieve the highest possible GHG savings, taking the particular situation in each Member State into consideration. A presentation by Ecofys showed that the potential for biomethane production in the Member States could be more than 1000 TWh in the period to 2050 and that its use would have high carbon benefits, reducing costs by up to 40%. However, Member States would need to make a choice in which sectors biomethane should be used for the highest benefits, with use for dispatchable power and industrial applications potentially providing more significant energy system cost reductions in the medium- to long-term than biomethane use in the transport sector (where use in long-distance trucks or container shipping might be promising options though). During the next part of the joint session, a representative of the Austrian Gas Clearing and Settlement AG (ASCG) showed how some national authorities are developing systems to support cross-border trade of biomethane, while also ensuring that the systems are compatible with sustainability certification requirements. The presentation by EUROSTAT looked at the complexity of the accounting challenges with the cross-border trade of biomethane. The EUROSTAT representative stated that the SHARES tool has now been adapted to allocate injection of biomethane to transport at the Member State level, but not yet for cross-border trade. There are still ongoing discussions for adaption of the SHARES tool on trade and other sectors in order to better address cross-border trade. Measures to ensure that biomethane does not receive double subsidies and its use in the transport sector is additional are necessary. For this purpose, information on support schemes has to be provided along the chain of custody.

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