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Wood resources availability and demands - Implications of renewable energy policies

A first glance at 2005, 2010 and 2020 in European countries

In early 2007, the UNECE/FAO Timber Section and the University of Hamburg launched together with other partners (European Commission (DG Enterprise), Confederation of European Paper Industry - CEPI, European Panel Federation - EPF , Swedish Forest Agency, Metsäteho Oy, Finland) a study to gather existing information on all sources of wood for material and energy use of wood. This information, in combination with existing outlook studies for the forest sector and policy objectives for renewable energy and bioenergy is being used as basis to build scenarios for wood demand and supply in 2010 and 2020. The results were presented at the UNECE/FAO Policy Forum on "Impacts and opportunities of bioenergy policies on the forest and other sectors" (10 October 2007).

Full report available under:

     >> 1. Objectives
     >> 2. Summary of Results and Discussion
          >> 2.1. Current role and relative importance of wood energy
          >> 2.2. potential of wood to achieve renewable energy targets
     >> 3. Conclusions of the study
     >> 4. Relevant Literature
     >> 5. Presentations and Downloads

1. Objectives

The study is addressed to decision-makers in the field of renewable energy, forestry and wood-based industries. The objective is to assess the current role of wood energy and its future potential to help to achieve policy goals on renewable energy and climate change in Europe. The focus of the assessment so far is on the countries in the European Union and EFTA. However, its implications address all UNECE member countries, as the conclusion and policy implications drawn from this study might apply to their national situation as well.

The figures presented are the results of combining actual figures, forecasts of future raw material demand from the wood-processing sector, and scenarios for wood-energy requirements to meet policy targets for renewable energy. The figures presented are not meant to be a forecast of future wood demand, but should be a basis to discuss renewable energy policies and help in finding realistic targets for the future contribution of wood to the overall energy supply.

The assessment is based on the best data available and is seen as a step in an on-going continuous process of data improvement. National specialists are invited to join


2. Summary of Results and Discussion

2.1. Current role and relative importance of wood energy

Having always been one use of wood raw material, energy did not play a major economic role in the last decades; material use of wood (for paper and wood products) had been the dominating use in most countries of the UNECE region. In recent years wood energy came back in the focus of society and policy-makers as a renewable energy source to tackle issues of secure energy supply and climate change. In particular the European Union and her Member States have set policy targets for renewable energy (12% by 2010 and 20% by 2020). Since wood energy is currently the major source for renewable energy, these targets can be expected to have major implications for the forest sector.

The first part of the study assesses in depth current wood supply and consumption in 29 EU/EFTA countries in 2005, using the "wood resource balance" developed by Mantau (2005). This methodology calculates independently the wood supply on the one hand (directly form the forest as well as indirect sources: wood residues, recovered wood, etc) and wood consumption on the other (by the wood-processing industries and energy generation). Multiple uses of wood (e.g. the use of wood residues, chips and particles etc) are accounted on both sides of the balance, thus it does not only consider the wood supply (and use) directly from the forest.

On EU/EFTA level, the results of the study show a higher (47 million m³) wood consumption (821 million m³), than wood supply (775 million m³). These differences were much higher in some countries, while for others a higher supply was estimated.

Differences can be explained, by weak and missing data. On the supply side data weaknesses were found in particular in: woody biomass outside the forest, post consumer recovered wood and used logging residues. On the consumption side, little or weak information was found in particular on wood use for energy, as well as conversion factors (calculating wood raw material equivalent from units of products).

Table 1 : Wood resource balance 2005 for EU/EFTA 29

As other experiences from international (Joint Wood Energy Enquiry) and national level (e.g. household surveys in Germany, France, Norway) have also shown, volumes of wood used by the forest-based industries and in particular for energy generation are sometimes much higher than published in international and national statistics. Therefore empirical research is needed to gain a better picture ob the actual situation of wood supply and demand, as well as the current contribution of wood to energy supply.

2.2. potential of wood to achieve renewable energy targets

The second part collected and assessed national and EU policy targets for renewable energy, bioenergy and wood energy (if available) and translated them into wood volumes by applying a number of straightforward, transparent assumptions (basically the same relative importance of different components as in 2005). Furthermore, the study calculated wood consumption from the wood-based industries for 2010 and 2020, based on the European Forest Sector Outlook Study EFSOS (UNECE 2005).

The wood requirements from EFSOS and the policy targets were then added up, to estimate wood requirements in 2010 and 2020 of both the energy and wood-based industries. The combined wood requirements showed a difference to the EFSOS wood supply forecast of 185 million m³ wood in 2010 and 321 / 448 million m³ wood in 2020 (75% scenario and "business as usual" scenario). These calculations are not meant to be forecasts, but should be a basis for discussion and help setting realistic wood energy policy targets.

Table 2 : Wood required to achieve national policy objectives for renewable energy


[million m³]

[million m³]

[million m³]

"75% scenario"
[million m³]

EU 25





Sum of national targets in EU 25 countries





Sum of national targets in EU/EFTA countries





It can be concluded from this study that better data and discussion about the data is needed in different areas of wood supply and wood use. This knowledge is crucial for policy decision on the future role of wood as raw material for the wood-processing industry and energy generation.

The assessment is based on the best data available and is seen as a step in an on-going continuous process of data improvement. Delegates and national specialists are invited to join the effort to advance data quality on wood and paper products, wood energy and wood supply.


3. Conclusions of the study

  1. The wood resource balance for 2005 has shown the broad pattern of wood supply and use in demand and the approximate size of differences. The projected fibre demand is considerably higher than the supply forecast by EFSOS. The size of the margin is subject to discussion, but not the general direction.

  2. Traditional analysis of wood supply and demand, centred on wood removals from forests and wood input to industries is inadequate. A more complex approach, based on comprehensive wood resource balances, is necessary, which requires original research and data gathering, notably the following:

    • Unrecorded sources of wood supply (trees outside the forest, logging residues, and post consumer recovered wood) and use (wood energy in private households and small CHP plants)
    • Input/output conversion factorsfor wood using industries

  3. One or several of the following developments are necessary to keep supply and use in balance both now and also in the future:
    If wood supply is not increased, or not increased sufficiently:

    • Targets for renewable energies will simply not be met;
    • Targets will be met, but with non-wood renewables and other renewables will be develop faster than wood-based energy.
    • Wood-processing industries will not develop as forecast in EFSOS, but their production will increase less (or even decrease).

    In order to increase wood supply:

    • Wood supply from new sources should be expanded, notably through expansion of the area used to grow wood (whether or not this area is considered “forest”). This approach cannot really bear fruit by 2010, but could by 2020.
    • Wood supply from existing sources (forest and non-forest) should be expanded, e.g. through higher wood removals
    • Increase imports of wood, (roundwood, products or wood energy sources)
      In this context, it should be noted that the extensive use of imported biomass could compound problems rather than solving them.

  4. In order to fulfil the increasing demand, some recommendations need to be taken into account, whether or not wood supply expands:

    • Energy efficiency will have to be radically improved
    • There will be further improvements in the efficiency of use of wood flows

  5. There is an urgent need to analyse in quantitative terms the potential of each of the above strategies and their combinations taking account of local realities.

  6. The concept and level of sustainable levels of wood supply needs re-examination. Net annual increment is not a sufficient indicator by itself of what is a sustainable level of supply; age structure, ownership, location and infrastructure, conservation and protection needs, quality aspects and other features must all be considered.

4. Relevant Literature

Mantau, U. (2005) Development of methods to generate market information and linkages between biomass supply and demand. INFRO - Information Systems for Resources. Hamburg, Germany.
online: [ http://webapp.rrz.uni-hamburg.de/~holz/files/161_Methods%2006.pdf ]

Steierer F, Fischer-Ankern A, Francoeur M, Wall J, Prins K. 2007: Wood energy in Europe and North America: A new estimate of volumes and flows. Joint Wood Energy Enquiry, UNECE/FAO, Geneva, Switzerland.
online: [ methods ]

5. Presentations and Downloads

Download: Wood_availability_and_demand

Presentation of the study or parts of its results:

Date Event Title Organisation Presentation Venue
29 November 16th Session of the Committee on Sustainable Energy, Item 11(a) Special Session " Biofuels - a reality check" UNECE Sustainable Energy Division The contribution of wood to biomass energy Kit Prins Geneva, Switzerland
27 – 29 November European Paper Week CEPI, EU Bionet II and Intelligent Energy Europe Wood resources availability and demands -
implications of renewable energy policies
Florian Steierer Brussels, Belgium
26-27 November Serbian Wood Energy Workshop UNECE/FAO Timber Section, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management of Serbia Wood Energy markets and trade in Europe – an overview Florian Steierer Belgrade, Serbia
20 November Sustainable Forest Management and Wood Energy: Developing Local cooperation between Private and Municipal Forest Owners in Europe EUROFORENET, ELO Private Forest Ownership and Wood Mobilization in Europe Franziska Hirsch, Sebastian Hetsch Brussels, Belgium
10 November Tag der Holzwirtschaft University of Hamburg Holzaufkommen und Verwendung - Bedeutung von Energiepolitik f?r die Holzverwendung in Europa Florian Steierer, Sebastian Hetsch Hamburg, Germany
8 November Wood Futures Conference Timber Trade Journal Tomorrow's Timber Resources: Can We Sustainably Meet Rising Demand? Ed Pepke London, UK
26 October 4ème Journée Technique du Résineux Commerce du Bois (LCB), Fédération Nationale du Bois
Evolutions récentes et à moyen terme
de la Ressource forestière et des
Marchés de bois et d’énergie
Ed Pepke Rochefort, France
25 October EPF General Assembly EPF Wood resources availability and demands - implications of renewable energy policies Florian Steierer Brussels, Belgium
11 October UNECE/FAO Policy Forum: Opportunities and Impacts of bioenergy policies and targets on the forest and other sectors UNECE/FAO Timber Section Wood resources availability and demands - implications of renewable energy policies Udo Mantau, Kit Prins Geneva, Switzerland