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In 1995, biomass and wastes accounted for almost 99 percent* of total renewable energy (RE) among European countries. Overall, renewable energy accounts for six percent of total energy production, as figures and statistics show. This is a modest contribution to the total energy balance when compared to the technical potential of renewable energy in general, and biomass and wastes, in particular.

France, Austria, Finland, Sweden, and Germany are among the countries in the European Union where wood energy consumption is largest. In Sweden, the share of biomass and waste was over 99 percent during that period. The southern countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Italy come next. Among the non-European Union countries, Turkey is the largest wood energy consumer, followed by Czech Republic, Poland and Romania.

Biomass, when produced and managed in a sustainable manner, provides a multitude of advantages. It does not only serve as an energy provider, but also as an environmentally favourable, and economically beneficial resource. During the past decades, some countries in Europe have seen phenomenal outcomes from their technological research, development and demonstration projects for biomass. Successful power, heat and gasification plants have proven scientific and experimental conquests.

Seen from another perspective, many European countries were likewise urged for the more pragmatic and functional side of the bioenergy industry. Institutional foundations and legal groundwork needed setting up, or like in many cases, needed further development. This paper deals with the general backdrop of European institutional policies, strategies and projects in the area of bioenergy development. Moreover, the paper also touches base with the manner in which the legal system in many European countries serve as conduit to the all-enclosing need to promote and develop biomass energy. The case review of 25 countries typifies what and how much these countries have already accomplished, and how much work is still needed to be pursued along the areas of institutional building and legal operations.

Sensing the fast changing horizon, FAO's Wood Energy Programme, with its long-standing interest in biomass energy, has taken the initiative to undertake a study of this nature - institutional framework and legal aspects of bioenergy. Hence, this paper.

Many significant insights and lessons can be generated from the various experiences among European countries in relation to the evolution of institutional and legal structures. Among themselves, these countries can learn much from each other. More importantly, developing countries around the globe, that are presently trying to establish and develop their own respective institutional fabric and legal foundation vis--vis biomass systems development, will find these knowledge markedly useful. As always, the "Latecomers advantage" is one positive impact of any development effort.


* This figure excludes hydropower.

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