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Wood continues to be the primary source of renewable energy in Europe

Published: 03 March 2016

Wood energy accounts for 3.5% of the total primary energy supply (TPES) and 38.2% of the renewable energy supply (RES) in the UNECE region, making it the first source of renewable energy in the region. Woody biomass covers 21 to 23% of the primary energy demands of Finland and Sweden and 14 to 16% of the primary energy demands of Estonia and Austria. Woody biomass accounts for over half of the renewable energy supply in the Nordic and Baltic states as well as in Armenia, Republic of Moldova, Serbia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Luxembourg. Around 42% of the total mobilized woody biomass supply is used for energy purposes.

These are the main findings of the biennial UNECE/FAO Joint Wood Energy Enquiry (JWEE) 2013, which promotes cross-sectoral communication and cooperation between the energy and forestry sectors in member States. Now in its fifth round since 2005, the JWEE has become a reference source of information on wood energy.

Sources of wood energy

Co-products and residues from the forest-based industries contribute 62% of the wood fibres for energy generation. Processed wood fuels with improved energy content such as wood pellets, briquettes and charcoal are also included under this category. 31% of the wood fibres for energy generation derive directly from woody biomass from forests and wooded areas outside forests. However, the proportion varies among countries with Armenia, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia and Czech Republic relying heavily (60% or more) on direct supplies (such as firewood) of wood fibres whereas countries such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, Austria and Finland rely mainly (60% or more) on wood supply from indirect sources such as co-products.

The United States (48%), Sweden (42%), Finland (41%) and Canada (29%) have large shares of energy generated from black liquor reflecting the relative importance of the pulp and paper industries in the forest sector for the generation of wood energy. Overall, recovered waste wood (mainly waste from construction, but also packaging and old furniture) constitutes a minor category contributing 4.5% of wood energy. It is mainly consumed in power applications and waste to energy plants.

Uses of wood energy

Wood energy is consumed by industry (49%) and final consumers (34%). Forest-based industries account for 75% of industrial use and households account for 93% of final consumption. The highest shares of industrial use are in Canada, the United States, Ireland, Sweden and Finland. The forest products industry typically consumes energy generated from the solid and liquid co-products of its manufacturing processes. Countries with important forest industries, such as Finland, Sweden, Canada and the United States therefore have a higher share of industrial consumption. Residential use, mainly dependent on primary solid biomass sources, is prevalent in most reporting countries except Canada, Cyprus and Iceland where mainly wood charcoal is used for energy generation in the residential sector.

The power and heat sector is the most important consumer of wood energy in Denmark, Netherlands and the United Kingdom, and has relatively large shares in Estonia, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Austria and Ireland.

Consumption of wood pellets further increased as 38.8 kg of wood pellets were consumed per capita in the countries that reported figures from 2007 to 2013, an increase of 144% compared to 2007.

A more detailed summary and the complete datasheets can be found at http://www.unece.org/forests/jwee

Note to editors

The JWEE 2013 was sent out to all UNECE member states except Andorra, Monaco and San Marino. Overall 27 countries replied to the enquiry and 26 countries provided good quality data: Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Moldova, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Co-products can be solid (sawdust, chips, slabs, etc.) or liquid (e.g. black liquor or tall oil).

For further information, please visit: http://www.unece.org/forests/jwee

Or contact: woodenergy.timber@unece.org

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