Agency for Renewable Resources is celebrating its 25th Anniversary
For 25 years the Agency for Renewable Resources (FNR) has been supporting the development of a strong bio-based economy. Since 1993 FNR has been working as central coordinating institution for research, development and demonstration projects in the field of renewable resources commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture (BMEL). The Agency has been supported more than 3000 projects in Germany. Furthermore, FNR has contributed to coordination and knowledge transfer, and has been participating in various trans-national projects and international cooperation activities.
’The 1973 global oil crisis was still in the head of many people when the FNR was founded. Oil, the lifeblood of the global economy was suddenly becoming very expensive and scarce. At the same time we had to deal with agricultural overproduction’ managing director Andreas Schütte remembers the situation when FNR started working. “Renewable resources presented an alternative for fossil resources and a possibility for farmers to generate new income.”
This vision mostly became reality: In 1994 380,000 ha of industrial and energy crops were cultivated in Germany. Today it is 2.6 Mio ha and 22 percent of the total agricultural land. Especially energy crops provide a considerable share of many farmers income today. Foresters benefit from an increasing use of energy wood. Bioenergy is an important pillar of the German ‚Energiewende’ with more than 8,700 biogas plants, more than 2,000 wood energy plants and a biofuel share of 4.7% in transport. Bio-based feedstocks are responsible for 1/3 of CO2 savings caused by the use of renewables.
On behalf of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, FNR is contributing to this positive development. Research & Development projects financed by FNR provided the foundation for efficient biogas production or the development of highly efficient wood heating systems. FNR supported the development of sustainability certification schemes for biofuels and provided support to innovative bioenergy regions.
There also has been a significant development in the industrial use of renewable resources. Today we find composites made from natural fibres and plastic polymers in almost every car. More than 200 bio-lubricants are available on the market, bio-based surfactants can be found in almost half of all washing and cleaning products and bio-based packaging in every supermarket. Modern wood construction systems increasingly find their way into our cities. They bring many technical advantages, a genuine look, but most importantly can contribute to climate change mitigation.
Starting in January 2019, a new Centre of Competence and Information for Forests and Wood (KIWUH) will be established at FNR. The German Forest Strategy 2020 and the Climate Protection Plan 2050 call for enhanced information and communication related to sustainable forestry and intelligent use of wood. Hence, the new centre shall appose related expertise under one organisational umbrella.
Almost from the beginning the national programme of FNR was accompanied by European and international activities. FNR has developed into an internationally recognised and renowned institution in the field of renewable resources. The Agency has supported standardisation activities related to bioenergy and bio-based products on CEN and ISO level, participates in IEA Technology Collaboration Programmes, SCAR Working Groups, Commission Expert Groups and provides expertise in various settings on EU level. FNR has participated in European research programmes including FP6, FP7 and H2020 as well as various regional INTERREG programmes. Until today FNR has contributed to more than 40 European projects.
There are many challenges but also opportunities when looking into the future prospects of the bioeconomy in Germany and Europe. Bioenergy and biofuels need to find their role in the circular bioeconomy and in the light of the international climate change mitigation agenda. Looking at regional value chains, bioenergy will play an important role in the upcoming years. A flexible production of bioenergy will be an important factor in the renewable energy transition. Nonetheless, challenges regarding nutrient management, water and soil protection or biodiversity need to be tackled.
The chemical industry is actively working on the transition towards renewable feedstocks. This can be seen by the increasing number of research projects in this area. However the journey from innovation to full scale commercial market introduction is long. ‘Currently prices for oil and natural gas are stable but these feedstocks remain to be scarce and harm our climate. We therefore will continue our way towards a post-fossil future.’ concludes Andreas Schütte.