Our economy depends on oil and gas, which are used to produce chemicals for all kinds of daily life products but the use of fossil-resources harms the environment and our climate. The bioeconomy offers a way out by providing industrial and consumer products made of biomass and waste. Several policies and legal frameworks are set in place to support the transition from a fossil-based to a sustainable and circular bioeconomy.
In 2018 the European Union published its revised Bioeconomy Strategy: “A sustainable bioeconomy for Europe. Strengthening the connection between economy, society and the environment”. The updated strategy addresses new challenges through a set of specific actions. It puts special emphasis on sustainability and circularity as core principles to drive the renewable of Europe’s industries, the modernisation of the primary production system and the protection of the environment. Actions address three pillars:
- Strengthen and scale-up the bio-based sectors, unlock investments and markets
- Deploy local bioeconomies rapidly across Europe
- Understand the ecological boundaries of the bioeconomy
In 2019 the European Commission published the Communication on the European Green Deal. It describes the EU’s climate and sustainability ambitions. The policy includes a New Industrial Strategy and a Circular Economy Action Plan, which highlights major objectives for Europe to become resource-efficient and competitive with zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Many European member states do have or are currently developing national bioeconomy strategies. Germany adopted a new National Bioeconomy Strategy in 2020. The strategy sets the following common goals:
- Develop bioeconomy solutions for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
- Recognize and harness the potential of the bioeconomy within ecological boundaries
- Enhance and apply biological knowledge
- Establish a sustainable raw material base for industry
- Promote Germany as the leading location for innovation in the bioeconomy
- Involve society and strengthen national and international collaboration
For each goal specific implementation objectives have been formulated in the context of R&D funding, relevant framework conditions and cross-cutting measures.
Bioenergy and fuels
The background for public support of renewable energy and bioenergy, both by the German Government and by the EU, is the finite nature of fossil-based resources and the increasing climate change effects, i.e. GHG emissions. Accordingly, the strategies for securing the energy supply and for protecting the environment, respectively, include energy savings and higher energy efficiency, but also focus on the use of renewable energies.
The German Government's goals and measures aim to increase the share of renewables, e.g. biomass of the total energy demand. These goals are based on the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) issued by the European Union in 2009, and are anchored in the following:
- Action Plan for Renewable Energies (Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, BMUB, August 2010),
- National Biomass Action Plan for Germany (Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture [BMEL], September 2010) and
- Energy Concept for a reliable, affordable energy supply that spares the environment (Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, BMWi, September 2010)
The Biomass Action Plan highlights the potentials for bioenergy in Germany. Beside the description of the proportion that is already being used, it points out utilisable reserves. Regarding this, it contains the strategies of the German Government to increase the share of bioenergy from RES in the sectors heating & cooling, electricity and transport, and the adopted measures in this context.
Likewise, in its Energy Concept, in which bioenergy is an integral part of Germany's overall concept for energy supply in the future, the German Government declares its commitment to the expansion of the three sectors: heating & cooling, electricity and transport deriving from RES. The Energy Concept formulates guidelines for an energy supply that is reliable and affordable and environmentally friendly. As part of this, a long-term strategy, looking as far into the future as 2050, maps out the path for the far-reaching conversion to renewable sources. As a result of the Fukushima catastrophe in spring in 2011, the intention is to implement the Energy Concept even faster as originally foreseen.
Important measures of the Energy Concept:
- The reduction of GHG emissions,
- Increased renewable energies' share in gross final energy consumption,
- An increased proportion of electricity generation from renewable energies in gross electricity consumption, and in primary energy consumption.
Furthermore the aim is to double the rate of building refurbishments from less than 1% at present to 2% to improve the energy efficiency of the building stock. In the transport sector the goal is to reduce the energy consumption up to 10 percent by the year 2020 and around 40 percent by the 2050.
Expansion measures and restrictions on bioenergy are described as follows in the Energy Concept:
- Improved utilisation of domestic bioenergy potentials and avoidance of conflicts between different uses by means of strengthening the use of organic residues and waste material, agricultural and/or forestry by-products, and wood from short rotation plantations;
- Enhancing energy and land use efficiency by means of improved management, process development, strengthening the use of biomass in combined heat-and-power (CHP) installations, expansion of need-based electricity production from biomass, as a way of supplementing other fluctuating renewable energies, as well as the further development of integrated concepts for the use of biomass, i.e. the innovative combination of installations and processes;
- Expanded use of bio-methane by creating further opportunities for the feed-in into the natural gas grid, in order to make energy available; and
- Supplementing the supply of bioenergy by imports of sustainably generated biomass. A particular concern in this regard is to avoid competition between use and demand of food and animal feed production, as well as to maintain sustainable and efficient agriculture and forestry that is compatible with environmental protection policy frameworks, i.e. Natura 2000.
Beside political directives and concepts mentioned in the context of future expansion of bioenergy, numerous state legislative regulations are decisive in terms of flanking the current areas of use and also giving support to the attainment of further goals. This includes regulations, ordinances and directives that determine the requirements, prohibitions, obligations to use, tax incentives, financial support given to investment aid and levels of remuneration (cf. e.g. EU Common Agricultural Policy, CAP).
The following regulations that relate to bioenergy are of particular interest: