The European Union is considering tightening rules that determine whether wood-burning energy can be classed as renewable and count towards green goals, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.
The EU’s executive Commission will next month propose a package of policies to slash planet-warming emissions, including fuel tax changes and reforms to its carbon market. All are designed to meet the EU’s target to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, from 1990 levels.
The package will also include an overhaul of EU renewable energy rules, which decide how quickly the bloc must expand sources like wind, solar and biomass energy produced from burning wood pellets or chips.
A draft of that proposal, seen by Reuters, would require biomass-fuelled power and heat plants with a capacity of 5 megawatts (MW) or above to meet sustainably criteria, and provide substantial emissions cuts compared with burning fossil fuels.
Biomass plants with a capacity below 20MW are currently exempt from those requirements.
Biomass-fuelled plants will only count as renewable if they produce 70% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuel-based power plants, the draft said. Currently, that requirement applies only to new installations that started operating this year.
The draft said any national support schemes promoting biomass energy use must follow a “cascading principle”, where wood should only be burned for energy as a last resort. The aim is to stop wood that is fit for other purposes, like making furniture, from ending up as fuel.
The law will also set more ambitious targets for the EU to expand renewable energy. The numbers for these new targets were not included in the draft proposal.
The EU’s current target is to expand its share of renewable energy to 32% of final consumption by 2030, although the Commission’s analysis suggests that will need raising to 38-40% to comply with the bloc’s new emissions-cutting goal.