Puzzle. The European Union has a goal of producing 20% of all its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Right now, which source of renewable energy does the EU use most?
8) bureaucrats in hamster wheels
Think about it a bit before reading further!
The Economist writes:
Which source of renewable energy is most important to the European Union? Solar power, perhaps? (Europe has three-quarters of the world’s total installed capacity of solar photovoltaic energy.) Or wind? (Germany trebled its wind-power capacity in the past decade.) The answer is neither. By far the largest so-called renewable fuel used in Europe is wood.
In its various forms, from sticks to pellets to sawdust, wood (or to use its fashionable name, biomass) accounts for about half of Europe’s renewable-energy consumption. In some countries, such as Poland and Finland, wood meets more than 80% of renewable-energy demand. Even in Germany, home of the Energiewende (energy transformation) which has poured huge subsidies into wind and solar power, 38% of non-fossil fuel consumption comes from the stuff.
I haven’t yet found confirmation of this on the EU’s own websites, but this page:
• Eurostat, Renewable energy statistics.
says that in 2010, 67.6% of primary renewable energy production in the EU came from “biomass and waste”. This is at least compatible with The Economist‘s claims. Hydropower accounted for 18.9%, wind for 7.7%, geothermal for 3.5% and solar for just 2.2%.
It seems that because wood counts as renewable energy in the EU, and there are big incentives to increase the use of renewable energy, demand for wood is booming. According to the Economist, imports of wood pellets into the EU rose by 50% in 2010 alone. They say that thanks to Chinese as well as EU demand, global trade in these pellets could rise five- or sixfold from 10-12 million tonnes a year now to 60 million tonnes by 2020.
Wood from tree farms may be approximately carbon-neutral, but turning it into pellets takes energy… and importing wood pellets takes more. The EU may be making a mistake here.
Or maybe not.
Either way, it’s interesting that we always hear about the rising use of wind and solar in the EU, but not about wood.
Can you find more statistics or well-informed discussions about wood as a renewable energy source?
Here’s the article:
• Wood: the fuel of the future, The Economist, 6 April 2013.
If its facts are wrong, I’d like to know.
P.S. – This is the 400th post on this blog!