Biomass: less biofuel, more heat and electricity

Council of experts warns against careless expansion of biomass use

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Biomass can play an important role in the implementation of German climate protection goals, but it is not an inexhaustible resource. This is one of the results of the special report "Climate Protection through Biomass", which was presented yesterday by the German Council of Environmental Advisors (SRU) in Berlin.

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Thus, only about 10 percent of primary energy consumption in Germany could be covered by biomass grown here by 2030, provided environmental and nature protection considerations are adequately taken into account. Councilor Prof. Dr. med. Martin Faulstich stated: "Biomass is a scarce resource and should therefore be used as effectively as possible for climate protection." In its special report, the German Council of Economic Experts shows that biomass in heat and combined heat and power generation can be up to three times more efficient and efficient can be used much more cost-effectively than with the production of currently used biofuels biodiesel and bioethanol. This applies in particular when coal is replaced by biomass. Heat and electricity should therefore be given priority over biofuels in biomass production.

The current funding landscape for bioenergies is, in the view of the SRU, not suited to prioritizing priorities. The high European biofuels quota of ten percent planned for 2020 and the corresponding national expansion target of 17 percent will channel the available biomass into the transport sector. This, in turn, could weaken the effectiveness of the EEG's support measures, but also trigger a difficult-to-control import at the expense of natural resources in third countries. "On the overall balance sheet, other priorities could increase climate protection to lower abatement costs for taxpayers, motorists and electricity customers, " said SRU Chairman Hans-Joachim Koch.

Environmental damage through biomass cultivation?

According to the experts, the expansion of renewable raw materials in Germany is likely to lead to an increase in the use of fertilizers and pesticides, especially in the large-scale rapeseed and maize cultivar cultures and a further intensification of agriculture. Risks also arise from the water shortage associated with climate change. In order to avoid environmental damage, the existing environmental regulations for agriculture must be consistently implemented and further developed in individual points. Deputy Council President, Prof. Dr. med. Christina von Haaren, on this: "In particular, the upheaval of grassland must be more strictly prevented, reinforced by him the loss of biodiversity and released to a considerable extent greenhouse gases." Display

The SRU believes that the negative climate impacts of land use change and the release of highly effective greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide from agriculture must be systematically considered. Prof. Faulstich said: "Only through reliable life cycle assessments can one finally judge whether the path of use actually makes a contribution to climate protection."

Import of biomass threatens tropical forests

Among other things, the imminent import boom for biofuels increases the pressure of use on tropical forests that are to be protected in Southeast Asia and South America. Further deforestation would not only destroy valuable natural resources but would also be counterproductive in terms of climate policy. The Council therefore welcomed the efforts of the Federal Government and the EU to find minimum standards for biomass cultivation in international agreements.

However, the experts regard the forthcoming Biomass Action Plan and the planned Article Act on climate protection as an opportunity to put the current funding instruments for market launch on the test bench and to modify them in the light of the climate policy of the Federal Government. Above all, the expansion target for biofuels must be revised downwards in favor of other uses.

(Council for Environmental Questions, 13.07.2007 - NPO)