Biomass, which represents the main source of renewable energy in Denmark, is an organic material derived from plants and animals. It can be burned directly to obtain heat or transformed into a renewable liquid and gaseous fuel. Biomass energy doesn’t generate so many air emissions, besides the fact that it considerably reduces the amount of waste that goes to the landfills. Denmark has succeeded in making biomass a competitive fuel via enhanced taxation of fossil fuels. The Biomass Agreement, adopted in 1993, stipulates that it’s obligatory for power plants to buy approximately 1.4 million tons of biomass each year. Compliance with biomass sustainability requirements is documented by means of annual reporting.
The Danish government is opening up the way for sustainable biomass
On October 3rd, the Danish government announced that it will introduce new sustainability requirements regaining woody biomass. The biomass deployed for heating and electricity needs to be sourced from legal and sustainable sources to ensure a smooth transition to an energy system without coal. To be more precise, the biomass should come from legally felled trees, which will be replanted. Denmark aims to replace the imported biomass (a transitional fuel) with something more eco-friendly. The biomass should provide genuine climate benefits while supporting forests and protecting biodiversity.
Not all organic materials are carbon-neutral, which is why the Danish government is going to introduce stricter sustainability criteria for biomass. According to the experts, it should be sourced from low-value wood residues and small trees from timber harvests. It’s the responsibility of policymakers to ensure that the right type of biomass is used – in other words, to ban the use of non-sustainable sources to deliver robust and verifiable savings. Biomass matters when it comes to the circular economy because there aren’t too many alternatives to coal.
In 2019, the United States exported roughly 6 million metric tons of biomass to the European Union, from the southwestern states where the wood volume increased by 21%. The US Industrial Pellet Association applauds the new sustainability requirements for woody biomass used in Denmark referring to them as strict but not impossible to meet. US exporters will be able to meet the new rules, which will come into force starting with 2021, and will continue to supply State Members with green biomass. Verification will be carried out by a third party and the annual report will have to be made available to all.
Biomass potentials from agriculture and municipal solid waste
Forest biomass is only one of the possible sources of bioenergy. Other notable mentions are energy crops and agricultural residues, and municipal waste. Energy crops are grown exclusively for bioenergy production, so they’re not suitable for food consumption. Not only are they durable but also production costs are low. The crops can be harvested when they are dry. Examples of energy crops include sugar beet, wheat, and rapeseed. Agricultural residues (straw, rice husk, corn stover, etc.) can be transformed into electrical energy via gasification. Straw has the largest potential, but the outcome depends on the extraction rate and the effort to maintain soil quality.
Biogenic materials can be identified in municipal solid waste – paper, cotton, food, just to name a few. Although they originate mainly from households, these biogenic materials can be generated by different sectors. Canteens and restaurants, for example, take a rational approach to dealing with waste management. The food left on plates, as well as recyclable packaging, is introduced into a waste baler that breaks down the waste to compact sizes. Compacting or baling waste helps reduce collection costs because the waste volume is reduced considerably. The waste material is transported to a pre-processing site and, then, to the main biorefinery. If you’d like to learn more, do a quick online search.
Woody biomass accounts for approximately 50% of biomass energy. A conclusion can be drawn that the role of other biomass sources is an important one, so we should see an increase in the role of other renewable sources. Next to forestry, agriculture and municipal solid waste can potentially be deployed for energy production. The main waste categories are represented by paper and cardboard, animal and mixed food, vegetal waste, residential waste, and common sludges. The point is that large volumes of organic materials are going unused, which is regretful considering that they can meet electricity and liquid fuel needs.
Bioenergy delivers environmental, social, and economic benefits
By avoiding fossil fuel consumption, it’s possible to reduce CO2 emissions, which are responsible for climate change. Biomass fuels can provide environmental, social, and economic benefits. people can breathe in better air, there are more employment opportunities than ever before, not to mention that energy can run continuously, even at peak times. In the future, we need to focus more on the utilization of biomass and organic waste residues for energy production. Denmark has demonstrated that using the right technologies in the right situations can work wonders.
Almost 70% of renewable energy consumption in Denmark originates from biomass. It’s expected that it will continue to play a significant part in the future energy system. Corporations, universities, and public funding programs are willing to forge long-term collaborations with foreign investors, as well as companies and research institutions. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’re able to identify high-tech energy solutions. Denmark frequently exports bioenergy technologies, systems, and solutions. In the past couple of years, there has been great demand from waste incineration plants in the United Kingdom, but it’s worth mentioning those in Scandinavia and Singapore.
At present, there are some controversies regarding the targets for bioenergy. Earlier in this article, we’ve discussed the issue of acceptable sources of biomass. It’s believed that imported wood pellets can boost greenhouse gas emissions. The controversies only show that there are many aspects to take into consideration as far as the bioenergy landscape is considered. Biomass can help decarbonize the electricity sector and other sectors like aviation and shipping. If it will help us meet global climate goals, only time will tell. It can’t hurt, anyway. Until the next time, it’s essential to ensure the sustainability of biomass.