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Bioenergy - the leading renewable energy source

In 2014, renewable energy accounted for 14% of the world’s global total primary energy supply, according to the International Energy Agency.  Solid biofuels represented the largest share of this, amounting to 44.5% in the EU. These are any renewable, biological material used as fuel such as wood, sawdust, leaves, and even dried animal dung, but the majority of biofuels are derived from wood. The use of wood as a fuel for cooking, heating, and other applications dates back to when Neanderthals learned how to start a fire. Today biomass is still the primary fuel for domestic use in many developing countries and it is also the leading renewable energy source in the UNECE region.  

Biofuels create less environmental impact than fossil fuels like coal although they contain less energy per unit of weight. New technologies and improved quality of fuel virtually eliminate any concern about particle emissions during combustion. For this reason, biomass-derived energy is attracting renewed interest and is expected to increase rapidly as a source of energy. According to Mr. Adrian Whiteman of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), “SDG 7 on affordable and clean energy, as well as the COP21 agreement on climate change mitigation and the EU Renewable Energy Targets, imply a more important role for biomass energy.”

However, data on primary production and gross consumption of biomass and renewable by-products is not so easily collected and often underestimate the role of this renewable energy source. What is the energy content of wood biomass? Does this depend on the moisture contained in the fuel? What is the source of biomass? Many countries lack adequate data. In addition, often production data do not match consumption estimates coming from household surveys. To address these issues UNECE and FAO, jointly with IRENA, organized a capacity building workshop on information on bioenergy from the forest sector in Budapest from 6-8 December. The aim of the workshop was to improve renewable energy statistics and analysis by comparing national experiences and hearing about best practices. Ms. Milka Mumovic of the Energy Community called during the workshop for estimates based on consumption surveys to obtain more realistic figures on production of energy from solid biofuels. For example, since 2005 many countries have been revising estimates of bioenergy from wood, showing consumption figures much higher - up to five times previous values.

The UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section is currently collecting information on wood energy sources and uses from all its member states to increase knowledge of the sector.  This information will be publicly available in spring 2017. Similarly, IRENA is currently collecting renewable energy data (including bioenergy data) for all countries in the world, which will be published in June 2017. 

For further information, please visit: http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=43908#/

Or contact Sebastian Glasenapp at: sebastian.glasenapp@unece.org

Bioenergy information is available at:  http://www.unece.org/forests/wood-energy

IRENA information is available at:  http://resourceirena.irena.org/gateway/dashboard

Video on “More Heat Less Wood” at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9z-EGVeKTrc (also in Albanian, Georgian and Turkish)