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EU Considers Wood-Burning as Renewable Energy

Context

The EU is debating firewood as a renewable energy source.

Relevance

GS Paper-3: Economic Development, Biodiversity and Environment

Mains Question

The EU’s renewable energy mix includes a sizable amount of biomass, including firewood. Discuss the environmental effects of wood burning as well as the sustainability requirements for obtaining and using biomass as energy. (250 words).


Key Highlights

  • The bloc wants to use 45% renewable energy by 2030 to reduce its dependence on Russian fossil fuels.
  • 60% of EU renewable energy is biomass, including firewood.
  • However, as the EU reviews its renewable power legislation, firewood’s sustainability has been questioned.
  • Member countries can subsidise wood burning if they follow sustainable sourcing rules.
  • The EU considers wood and other biomass carbon neutral because more trees will absorb CO2 emitted by burning.

Do You Know?

  • Burning wood releases more CO2 per unit of heat or electricity than gas, oil, or coal.Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter released from burning firewood can harm health and the environment.
  • The stove or fireplace and firewood quality affect firewood burning efficiency.

Concerns of Environmentalists

  • Environmentalists say this subsidy is “insane” because EU citizens are paying energy companies to burn forests during a climate and biodiversity crisis.
  • A scientific study suggests that replacing coal with wood pellets to generate electricity increases atmospheric carbon dioxide for long periods.
  • According to a 2019 European Academies Science Advisory Council report, wood-burning carbon emissions can even out over years, decades, or centuries.

Industry claims:

  • Responsible biomass is essential for the EU’s green transition, especially for renewable heat.To avoid environmental damage and biodiversity loss, bioenergy must meet strict sustainability standards, according to the European Parliament.Lawmakers also want to reduce EU renewable energy targets’ wood use.
  • This proposal aims to limit unsustainable and inefficient wood use, but industry groups say it would disrupt forest management, cause biomass supply shortages, and lower energy security and raise prices.

Way Forward:

  • Biomass must come from sustainably managed forests with logging practises that do not degrade forest ecosystems.
  • Biomass cannot compete with food production or conservation areas.
  • Biomass energy must emit less greenhouse gas than fossil fuels.
  • Wood-burning’s environmental impact must be considered.
  • Burning wood releases particulate matter and carbon dioxide, which cause air pollution and climate change.
  • To reduce environmental impact, use low-emission stoves and boilers.
  • Optimizing biomass sourcing and transport reduces carbon emissions.
  • •Biomass use affects biodiversity. Large-scale biomass production can destroy habitats and biodiversity, causing serious ecological damage.
  • Thus, biodiversity conservation and biomass energy use should be balanced.

Conclusion:

  • The EU’s firewood debate illustrates the difficulties of switching to a greener energy system.Firewood is a renewable resource, but its sustainability and efficiency are questioned.
  • The EU must balance energy security, renewable energy targets, and biodiversity.How the EU resolves this debate and shapes its renewable energy policy in the coming years is unknown.

March 2024
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