In Belgium, almost 600,000 ha of the land are covered by forest. The total exploitable production should be around 4.8m3 per year, but only 4m3 are effectively exploited. This overproduction however is not entirely usable for biomass. The Belgian experience with energy crops is recent and small. There are no commercial or large-scale uses of energy crops, neither are there important demonstration units. Energy crops in Belgium are more or less mainly for scientific reasons14.
Belgium is divided into three regions - Brussels, Wallonia, and Flanders - that have considerable political autonomy in the field of environment, energy and agriculture. Among them, the Wallonia region is the most active in the biomass for energy sector.A. INSTITUTIONAL ASPECT
A.1. POLICIES, STRATEGIES AND PROJECTS
Belgium considers the use of renewables as part of an environmental policy to help the country attain the carbon emission guidelines. The country does not have a RE programme on a National level. Environmental guidelines have been recently drawn up for the Walloon and Flemish regions. In Walloon the aim for RE is fixed at a contribution of 5% in the total energy consumption by the year 2010. In Flanders the objective is less stringent, a three percent by the year 2010.
A.2. - THE ROLE OF TECHNICAL AGENCIES
Because of the decentralisation of responsibility for agriculture, energy, and environment, not only Federal government but also Governments of each Region are mainly involved.
Among the Non-Governmental-Organisations involved are:
· ERBE - the Wallonia Biomass Energy Agency gives information and advice in the field of bio-energy, pre-feasibility studies, assistance to enterprises and municipalities in the implementation of bio-energy projects;
· VITO - the Flemish Institute for Technological Research carries out studies on the potential of energy production from landfill gas in Flanders, inventory of Flemish actors on the biomass for energy market, studies on potential and barriers of biomass for energy production and setting up a regional biomass network;
· BELBIOM - the Belgian Biomass Association is a non-profit association that gathers people involved in the biomass issues. Its aim is to promote the production and use of biomass in Belgium. BELBIOM, which has 35 members, including, companies universities, research centres and professional organisations, co-ordinates national activities on biomass.
· CRA Gembloux - the Agricultural Engineering Station of the Centre for Agronomic Research is involved in the research and experimentation of biomass use and on thermal and chemical transformations of ligneous matter.B. LEGAL ASPECTS
Financial measures should give a chance to biomass investments and can be justified by environmental externalities.
FINANCIAL INCENTIVES FOR THE PRODUCTION OF ENERGY CROPS:
In Belgium, the "set-aside" policy is in place.
FINANCIAL INCENTIVES FOR THE CONVERSION OF ENERGY CROPS:
No specific subsidies or loans are given for the energy conversion of biomass. Only subsidies over the whole investment (comprising, grinding, and drying) are available.
FINANCIAL INCENTIVES FOR THE UTILISATION OF ENERGY FROM ENERGY CROPS:
More favourable tariffs are granted towards electricity produced from biomass, there is also no limit to the amount of electricity sold during off peak hours. Surplus electricity based on biomass receives an extra-bonus, the "green frank" of approximately 0.034EURO per kWh.
No specific limits for wood fired emissions exist but reference is often made to German standards.
No national wood fuels standard exists at present.
As a market support, a grant up to 15 percent is available for companies that are investing in RE projects.
The increasing tax on landfilled residues results in an incentive to the developments of wood boilers in the wood industry.
At the Federal level higher tariffs (about 0.025 EURO/kWh) for green electricity sold to the electricity grid are legally stated15.
Current and future uses of RE will depend on the consumer choices but also on private and public initiatives. Quality, price, effectiveness, functionality, security, health, and appearance are the main criteria for those choices. For the producers, the value added is essential to survive. The key to the search for new characteristics that the market is ready to pay lies in one, which is more effective, and or a lower environmental impact16.
14 AFB-NETT III and BIOGUIDE II - Final Reports, December 1997.
15 AFB-NETT IV - Belgian Report, January 1999.
16 AFB-NETT II - National strategies, December 1996.