Slovenia is a nation rich in forests that cover almost 60% of its land area. The country also has considerable amounts of trees and shrubs on other, non-forest categories of land, especially on abandoned farm lands that are overgrown with forest vegetation. Therefore, there is tremendous potential to develop woody biomass as a renewable source of energy. Current forest cutting does not reach half the estimated annual increment leaving this energy resource largely unexploited.
In the last decade, Slovenia has introduced market reforms by harmonizing legislation with the European Union and opening markets through large structural changes among which was a denationalization process that returned nationalized properties, including many forests, to private citizens-- bringing about changes in their ownership structure. This modified, in various ways, the relation between man and forest in the country.
The share of the farming population has dropped considerably, which implies that the share of farmers among forest owners has decreased. A direct consequence is that forest owners have limited access to the forests and to the equipment needed for forestry operations. In particular, the incentives to extract wood biomass from forests decreased considerably.
Forest owners are increasingly dependent on forest enterprises when it comes to forest management. However, these enterprises are interested in logging marketable timber; therefore thinning in younger forests is not carried out to the required extent. This decreases the stability and the quality of younger forests. Moreover, biomass that could be used for heating is left in the forests and, due to the lack of thinning, wood products from these forests are also less competitive.
As result, while the cutting in the forest under direct state control remained in line with the allowable cut, in private forests the cutting rate dropped considerably. Statistics for the period 1991 – 2000 indicate that only 54% of the allowable cut was actually extracted. Considering that two years’ cut was already done before the denationalization process, it is highly probable that actual cutting in private forests has not reached even half of the allowable cut. Furthermore, it is important to note that the allowable cut itself was very conservative, as it covered only some 60% of the current mean annual increment.
The Slovenian Forestry Service (SFS) and Forestry Institute (SFI) have concluded that the utilization of woody biomass as fuel to be used internally and/or exported could be a good option for the diversification of forestry activities. In fact, biomass development could foster the increased productivity of forests providing new sources of income for people living in and around these areas and thus become an environmentally sound and locally available source of energy   . However, there was little and fragmented information of the role of wood energy and its development potential that was limiting effective planning and policy for the development of the sector.
In order to find viable solutions to this impasse and to promote a sustainable development of the wood energy sector, the Government of Slovenia, supported by FAO, implemented the Project “Supply and Utilization of Bioenergy to Promote Sustainable Forest Management” TCP/SVN/2901. The Project was implemented over the period 2003-2005. The Wood Energy Programme of FAO Forest Products and Economic Division (FOPP) was the Lead Technical Unit involved in the provision of technical assistance and supervision.
The content of the Project was wide and it captured all areas important for the promotion of utilization of wood biomass in Slovenia for energy purposes. The entire project included the following elements:
• Wood energy maps,
• Wood energy information system,
• Socioeconomic aspects of wood energy,
• Analysis of woodfuel market,
• Extension on the field of wood energy, and
• Dissemination of knowledge, strengthening of public awareness.
The present report covers the Information Component of the Project, which included the first two elements, i.e. “Slovenia Wood Energy Maps” and “Slovenia Wood Energy Information System”.
In developing the Information Component of the project the challenge inherent to wood energy planning was evident. The challenge came in two parts. First, the inter-sectoral character of wood energy, which encompasses energy, forestry, agriculture and rural development issues needed to be addressed. And second, the fact that the patterns of woodfuel production and demand, and its associated social, economic and environmental impacts, are site specific. It was clear that adequately assessing the implications of current woodfuel production and use and the sustainable potentials of woodfuel resources required a holistic view and a better knowledge of the spatial patterns of woodfuel supply and demand.
In fact, experience shows that broad generalizations about the woodfuel situation and impacts have often resulted in misleading conclusions, poor policies and failed to attract the required institutional recognition and resources.
In order to respond to the need for spatial and intersectoral data the activities followed the methodological approach named Woodfuels Integrated Supply / Demand Overview Mapping (WISDOM), which was developed by FAO Wood Energy Programme in collaboration with the National Autonomous University of Mexico . At the time of writing, the WISDOM methodology was implemented in Mexico and Senegal and, with a sub-continental approach, to over ten Central-Eastern African Countries5 and South-East Asia.6
The WISDOM methodology constituted the basis for the development of both elements of the Information Component. The analysis conducted may be considered the Slovenian application of this methodology and therefore this entire report is titled Slovenia WISDOM.
The scope and objective of the Information Component was to assist the Slovenian Forest Service (SFS) in strengthening wood energy planning and policy formulation and in developing an adequate spatial and statistical information base. More specifically, the objectives were to contribute to the creation of the Slovenia Wood Energy Information System (SWEIS) and to develop a series of thematic wood energy maps, following the WISDOM methodology.
In other words, the objectives required an understanding of the true potential of wood energy as an economically and environmentally sound alternative or complement to fossil fuels. Key questions to be answered concerned the quantities and locations of the present production and consumption of wood biomass in Slovenia; the sustainable production potentials; and the locations where it is suitable to develop utilization of wood biomass for energy purposes.
The immediate objectives of the Information Component were the following:
• to integrate the rich but fragmented information relevant for wood energy planning in Slovenia into a spatially explicit dataset;
• to fill critical information gaps concerning:
• woodfuel consumption by user groups;
• location, stocking and current/potential productivity of woody biomass supply sources including forests and non-forest lands;
• to identify the zones most, or least, suitable for the development and implementation of wood energy projects;
• to prepare the Slovenian Wood Energy Information System (SWEIS) providing statistical data on fuelwood, charcoal and black liquor production, consumption and trade (import, export);
• to suggest the most suitable institutional arrangements for long-term implementation of SWEIS within SFS and the liaison with other partners involved in supplying and using the data collected.
Drigo, R. East Africa WISDOM - Wood energy mapping of selected African countries.
FAO Wood Energy Programme. In press
6 Drigo, R. SE Asia WISDOM - Wood energy and poverty in Continental SE Asia. FAO Wood Energy Programme and Poverty Mapping Project. In press