Forests cover about 28 percent (8.8Mh) of the total land area of the Republic of Poland. Major part of forests is public (83 percent) and is managed by the State Forests Enterprise. Coal production is the main fuel in the Polish energy sector, but it is becoming more and more difficult and economically inefficient. Due to rise in coal prices, domestic consumption of biomass has increased rapidly over the past few years, becoming an alternative source in small-scale District Heating Plants and in co-combustion with coal.
The production of fuel wood in 1997 was 3.0 percent of the total primary energy production (3.5 Mm3s). The share of wood consumption was around 3.8 percent of the total energy consumption, used mainly (3.0 percent) in households for heating purposes.
Within the last few years the total annual amount of timber harvested by the State Forests Enterprise reached the level of approximately 20.5Mm3s, which was the present annual sustainable wood production level. A national afforestation programme aims to raise the share of forested land area to 32 percent which will raise the amount of annual sustainable wood production.
In addition to this it has been estimated that 5.2Mm3s of forest residues per year can be obtained for energy purposes. Also 1.1Mm3s of industrial wood residues can be utilised. In rural areas wood is usually combusted in traditional stoker-fired devices constructed for the combustion of other fuels. As a consequence there is an incomplete combustion which increases gas emissions. Especially carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions are a serious problem in such method of wood combustion.
Potential markets for Biomass plants up to 50MW are local DHPs in smaller municipalities (up to 20,000 inhabitants). There are also individual users.
FEMOPET EC BREC-LEI - the EC Baltic Renewable Energy Centre is an entity responsible of promoting Biomass utilisation.
POLBIOM is the Polish Biomass Association.
In Poland, many factors serve as driving forces for the implementation of bioenergy: The significant potential of biomass resources such as straw, residues and waste wood; current liberalisation of energy prices; the opportunity and the possibility to stimulate rural development, and lastly, for environmental reasons.