Status and Future Prospects of the Bioenergy Industry in Europe

G. Grassi, Secretary General
European Biomass Industry Association, Brussels (

In spite of the large world-wide biomass resource potential and the optimistic long-term, contribution (World: 7'800 MTOE/y- E.U. 400 MTOE/y), it can be stated that commercial bio-energy production is not yet initiated, with the exception of the heat production, mainly concentrated in Scandinavia and Austria (biofuel contribution ~18% of total primary energy).

Terrestrial biomass production is estimated at 60 Billion TOE/yr. with an average world-wide photosynthetic efficiency of 0.3%. The introduction of well developed bio-energy dedicated crops like S.R.F. (annual yield:~5 TOE/ha) and especially high productivity C-4 crops (annual yield:~10 TOE/ha) in marginal agricultural and semi-arid lands could supply huge amounts of sustainable, modern, low-nox emissions energy. As far as the improvement of crop productivity is concerned, we are still at an early stage compared with agricultural crops.

In particular the use of biomass as a substitute for fossil-fuels to mitigate the CO2 effect will be effective and more beneficial from the socio-economic (rural development) perspectives than sequestering the carbon in forests. The OECD maximum land potentially available for energy-crops cultivation is estimated around 333M.ha (~ 3 Billion TOE/y). The real usable amount of this land for energy crops will depend on adopted policies concerning food surpluses-diversification of energy supply-rural development-environmental constraints.

However, by shifting a small portion of present agriculture subsidies (167 Billion $/y for the E.U. - 300 Billion $/y for OECD Countries) from food to energy crops, it could be sufficient for stimulating a large scale deployment of modern bio-energy also in industrialized countries.. Modern bio-energy, beyond its large potential, is attractive also for the following reasons:

The main reasons for the delay in large-scale take-off of bio-energy reside in the:

A significant contribution for the improvement of the economics of modern bio-energy will derive from:

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