17 October 2019

What are the long-term prospects of bioenergy sector in the Baltic Sea Region?

Photo: Erik Trømborg, INA, NMBU

Dr. Erik Trømborg is a professor of the Faculty of Environmental Sciences and Natural Resource Management at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. His expertise includes forest and energy sector analyses, renewable energy with emphasis on biomass supply. Erik led the analysis of market outlook and future viability of different bioenergy products and value chains in the Baltic Sea Region energy system for the BalticBiomass4Value project. He answered some questions concerning the results of this analysis and the long-term prospects of bioenergy sector in the Baltic Sea Region.

What role does bioenergy play in the Baltic Sea Region energy system?

The use of biomass has become increasingly important, especially the use of biogas and biofuels in the transport sector. There are however differences between countries.

What changes you forecast in the Baltic Sea Region bioenergy sector? Which bioenergy uses will be the most viable in the future?

The heat market is often forgotten in the renewable energy discussions, but represents about 50% of the energy consumption. Increased use of biomass in district heating and CHP plants is an efficient way to reduce GHG emissions and increase the renewable energy shares. There are also good opportunities to install modern wood and pellets stoves in central heating systems and, by extension, to reduce emissions and local air pollution. In a longer perspective, more biomass will be used for biofuels and green chemicals, but wood chips and biogas will play an important role for a secure supply whilst peak loads in the heat and power sector.

Are there significant differences between countries within the Baltic Sea Region in terms of current and forecasted bioenergy use?

Yes, there are significant differences. Latvia, for instance, utilizes more municipal waste and wood chips than its neighbours Estonia and Lithuania. Sweden and Norway have significant higher shares of biofuels in transport than the other countries in the Baltic Sea Region.

There are environmental, economic and social concerns regarding the extensive biomass use for energy production. Do you foresee the introduction of restrictions (prohibitions, taxes, etc.) that would influence your forecasts?

Better utilization of waste, by-products from forest industries, agricultural residues as well as low grade round wood and harvest residues from sustainable forestry represent the main opportunities for more bioenergy production. My concern is rather too few restrictions on fossil fuels and too few incentives for bioenergy.

How could your analysis be useful for different stakeholders in the Baltic Sea Region?

I think policy makers, local communities and the business sector should sit down and discuss the opportunities for increased use of bioenergy. The heat market needs both small scale and large scale solutions that can replace fossil based heating. Furthermore, local based biomass resources’ use can help the regional value chain and development.

Full report on the analysis of market outlook and future viability of different bioenergy products and value chains in the Baltic Sea Region energy system can be found here.

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