Country research commitments, laws and regulations and the support mechanisms that are in place reflect the interest that they have in the sector of bioenergy. Consequently, to understand deeply the interests that European countries have in bioenergy it is necessary to understand local, national, and European policies, which are as a matter of fact the framework within which objectives and targets are set. They are implemented through a large number of mechanisms such as regulation, taxation, grants, and subsidies. Policies likewise determine the direction and scale of research and development programmes.
Policies, strategies, and projects concerning biomass system have been largely planned, designed, and set by decision-makers not only at a European level, but also at national and regional levels. Policies need to include adequate legislation and regulation in order to ensure sustainable production; marketing and use of wood as fuel1 ( see ANNEX 1).
To support the market for renewable energy, many countries have adjusted their policy frameworks in order to promote increased market penetration of RE technologies and the development of an RE manufacturing and service industry.
Throughout EU there is a widespread concern over the difficulty in promoting energy crops because of the uncertainty resulting from European policies. The "set-aside" policy is an instrument operating within the European agricultural context, stating aid to farmers who plant perennial crops in lands compulsory or voluntary destined to be set aside. But, farmers complain that they need large initial financial investment in order to plant these crops, showing, very often, to be not interested in growing them. These concerns result in a very low availability of land for planting these crops (e.g. Italy, Ireland, Denmark, and the UK). The failure of the "set-aside" policy is evident when we consider that it became a concern also in Sweden - a country with a consolidated tradition on bioenergy (especially after it joined EU). In Denmark and The Netherlands, there is a strong political wish to use set-aside lands mainly to improve natural habitats rather than for growing energy crops.
The national policies in Europe differ largely. There are few countries that have long-term policies, programmes, and complementary support mechanisms in place. Some countries have a very clear policy for some sectors of the biomass industry.
Detailed Renewable Energy Policies
Finland and Denmark have detailed policy structures for agricultural and forestry residues. In Austria, the national energy policy recognises that RE shall constitute the long-term basis for energy supply, and that biomass will make a significant contribution. In addition, in Austria, there are regional energy policies and development programmes for the use of wood residues. In Finland there has been a policy to increase exploitation of biomass for energy for the last 20 years. In April 1994 the target to increase the use of bioenergy by 25 percent (7.5 Mtoe) by the year 2000, was set. The Government implemented several measures to achieve this: Research and Development, taxation, capital investment, information, training, laws and regulations.
Conversely, in a number of countries, there are no stated specific policies for bioenergy system. Greece, UK, Portugal, Spain, and The Netherlands pointed out that inadequacy of national policies for the development of biomass as the problem. In many countries, policies for RE are unclear. For example, the UK has a policy on RE and targets for installing RE power generation capacity, however there are no explicit targets for bioenergy. Indeed few countries have set targets for increasing the use of biomass. Exceptions are Italy and France, which have set targets for supplying 1.5 percent and 25 percent respectively, of national energy needs from biomass by the year 2000.
The priorities given to resources also vary. In France and Italy, the emphasis given to the development of biodiesel has probably restricted the development of solid biomass as a fuel. The best use of land surplus is perceived to be the production of solid fuel for high efficiency power generation. In some countries such as Denmark, Finland and The Netherlands, the use of existing residues is given higher political priority due to its availability than the establishment of new crops. Agricultural and forestry residues are the most commercially advanced biomass residues in the EU. In the Netherlands, there is a national environmental and energy policy, which support RE, but there is no agricultural policy.
Biomass exploitation needs to move through research, development, and demonstration before it is fully commercially deployed in any community. Conflicting interests between Industry and Agriculture Ministries can cause problems in the management of national R&D programmes. In Greece there is no specific national policy for the development of biomass, like those in Ireland, Portugal and Spain.
In a number of countries, particularly those with Federal States, regional policies exist even if for some, national policies are absent. For example in Belgium, the regional policies and programmes are more developed than national initiatives. Belgium is divided into three regions - Brussels, Walloon, and Flanders. These regions have considerable political autonomy in the field of environment, energy, and agriculture. Among them, the Walloon region is the most active in the biomass for energy sector. In Germany most of the "Länder" have incentives for RE. Moreover there are regional policies and targets; for example Bavaria aims to supply 5% of their energy requirements from biomass. In Austria every region has different polices. In Italy the Government allows regions to make own policies and laws concerning agricultural and forestry issues.
All over the Europe, a large number of public and private actors are involved in the development, implementation and monitoring of policies, strategies and projects concerning wood energy. In order to successfully implement such policies and strategies, emphasis should be given to the proper planning, promotion, management; evaluation and monitoring of said projects.
In some countries (such as Finland and Sweden) most programmes are set by the parliament and government, but more often programmes and activity decisions are made by ministries, dedicated agencies, intermediate management structures and the research organisations themselves.
The relationship between industry and government is crucial and government strategies, data collection and fiscal incentives, information and administrative support are essential to overcome non-technical barriers such as tax systems and regulations, lack of specifications for heating system, lack of communication and public acceptability. Utilities are also important because they invest in many RE technologies and because they purchase the electricity generated from independent producers2. More details can be found in Part C of this paper.
Governments have a key role to play in using political strategies and actions to mobilise investments, select projects, allocate investment funding to wood based energy development and also in support of those who supply wood for fuel3. At a national level, Ministries, and Administrative Offices of Energy, Environment, Agriculture, Research, Industry, and Trade, Economic Affairs are in operation. In some countries like Austria and Germany, Federal Ministries are in force.
Dedicated agencies and intermediate management structures that deal with biomass programmes play a very important normative and proponent role because they are the interface between policy makers and research organisations. They co-ordinate and organise programmes, solicit public funding from government ministries, distribute funds. In some instances these agencies focus extensively on biomass, like the FNR in Germany and AGRICE in France. FNR is in charge of R&D activities, pilot projects and technological assessment related to RE. AGRICE is a scientific Interest Group that develops new market opportunities for agricultural products.
Expert Committees have been set up in most of the agencies and intermediate structures that manage biomass research and sometimes at the ministerial level. These committees are able to bring together partners who are directly involved in all biomass aspects. Among the above-mentioned agencies are the names NÜTEK (Sweden), ENEA (Italy), ETSU (the UK), NOVEM (the Netherlands), TEKES (Finland), Danish Energy Agency (Denmark), JNICT (Portugal), ADEME (France), Fachagentur and Nachwachsende Rohstoffe (Germany). ENEA, the National Italian Governmental Agency, is responsible for the fields of new technology, energy, and environment. NÜTEK is Sweden's central public authority for matters concerning the growth and renewal of industry and the long-term development of the energy system development.
Universities and Research Organisations make another very important role, all over Europe. Among the latest ones are: the Joanneum Research and BLT WIESELBURG (Austria), INRA, CNRS, IFP, Technical institutes and CIRAD-FORÊT (France), ENEA (Italy), INETI, CBE (Portugal), ADAS, Silsoe Research Institute (the UK), VTT Energy (Finland), CRA GEMBLOUX (Belgium), BIOMASS INSTITUE (Denmark), EUD (Germany), SINGARAS (Lithuania) and so on4. In particular, CIRAD-FORÊT is a research unit dealing with the improvement of the quality of energy generation from wood and biomass. VTT Energy is an organisation that carries out technical and techno-economic R&D activities.
Moreover, national biomass associations in most European countries operate actively. Some of them are BELBIOM (Belgium), FINBIO (Finland), AFB (France), HELABIOM (Greece), ITABIA (Italy), NOBIO (Norway), SK-BIOM (Slovak Republic), ADABE (Spain), SLOBIOSS (Slovenia), SVEBIO (Sweden), SVB (Switzerland), BRITISH BIOGEN (the UK).
All of them are members of AEBIOM - the European Association for Biomass - an efficient platform to exchange experiences between countries,5 which aims to promote global strategies to develop bio-fuels (for heat production and for vehicles)6.
Assisting governments are specialised agencies, NGOs, and the private sector. Their role is to move towards a more sustainable approach to production and use of forests, woodlands, and trees. FAO7 is a case in point.
1 FAO - Forestry Department - "Wood energy today for tomorrow" the role of wood energy in Europe and OECD, March 1997 .
2 IEA "The Evolving Renewable Energy market".
3 FAO-Forestry Department-"Forests, Fuels and the Future" - Forestry topic Report no. 5.
4 ADEME - "Biomass Research and Development Strategies", June 1996.
5 AEBIOM - "Biomass news" Newsletter no. 6, January 1998.
6 European Commission - DGXVII - "Wood-fuel for Heating Systems" European Catalogue, November'95.
7 European Financial Guide - "Renewable Energy-Focus on Biomass" , NOVEM, 1998.