Sustainable Biomass in protected areas

BioEuParks, Developing an efficient and sustainable biomass supply chain in 5 European Nature Parks,

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European Parks showcased models for sustainable biomass exploitation

On the 3rd of March, representatives from European Institutions, Protected Areas and representatives from NGOs,discussed models for wood biomass supply chains in European Parks and its contribution for local development. The Conference “Solid Biomass in European Protected Areas”, held in the Committee of the Regions (Brussels), highlighted the results of the BioEUParks project, proving that there are sustainable alternatives for local exploitation and consumption of solid biomass. 

To address the European Union strive for renewable energies predicted in Horizon 2020, five Protected areas developed different models for sustainable exploitation of wood biomass in their regions, ensuring nature protection whilst bringing economic benefits for local communities. The project BioEUParks was developed during three years by protected areas in Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy and Greece, with the support of other organisations related with energy, forestry and protected areas. Pioneering with a different model of solid biomass exploitation, in opposition to the large-scale plantations, partners have developed local supply chains of wood biomass, coming from sustainably managed forests and agricultural residues, and promoted the implementation ofsmall-scale boilers for heatproduction.

Roby Biwer, member of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) who hosted the Conference, opened the session stating highlighting the urge for the “new EU energy policy to recognise that there is a limited amount of sustainable biomass (…) and that biomass should always be used in the most resource and energy efficient way”. Following his idea, Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, Member of the European Parliament, mentioned biomass as an important alternative “if fossil fuels are meant to be replaced by renewable sources”, stressing also the potential of wood biomass towards developing a circular economy.

Representatives of European NGOs and from the European Commission – DG Environment, DG Agriculture and Rural Development and DG Energy also participated in the discussion highlighting the challenges and limits of biomass exploitation. On the environmental perspective, Peter Loffler from DG Environment, stressed that forest resources should be valued and explored prior to the use of wood for energy production. Moreover, despite the decrease of greenhouse gas emissions of biomass exploitation when compared with fossil fuels, carbon sequestration provided by forests should be taken into account, as highlighted Sini Erajaa from the European Environmental Bureau.

On the economic perspective, Jean-Marc Jossart, from the European Biomass Association, referred the incapacity of electricity production with small-scale plants, and scalability was mentioned as the main constraint.

Participants agreed that local supply chains and small-scale plants for heating can be a solution for the use of solid biomass, as it respects the limits of exploitation without compromising natural values, whilst bringing local benefits for communities.

“We had to face several challenges indeed – declared Diego Mattioli from Legambiente, project coordinator of BioEUParks – as we had to consider social, economic and environmental aspects and find a balance between nature conservation, which is the first task the Parks have to comply with, and energy production. For this reason, we highlighted sustainability criteria and defined a model focused on a short and sustainable supply chain, which has achieved a remarkable results:  11 supply chains activated in 5 nature park, 100.000 MW of thermal energy produced from firewood, pellets and chips and 33.000 tonsof CO2 saved. These numbers shows how Parks can play an active role in local and European bio-energy policy designing a model widely applicable to other EU protected area”.

The final results of the project will soon be available at