Wood energy today for tomorrow (wett)

During the activities of the current biennium, we decided to carry out a qualitative and quantitative study of the past and present consumption of wood fuel at the national level for the most relevant regions. The study was based on information and statistical data available in the most relevant databases of the organizations and agencies involved in this field, at the global as well as the regional level, in order to overcome the main problems derived from lack of or insufficient data in this sector.

We established regional studies, Wood energy today for tomorrow (WETT), aimed at revising data on wood fuel utilization in order not only to assess the actual contribution of forests, woodlands and trees to the energy sector, but also to scrutinize the possible future contribution of forest biomass to the energy sector – an energy sector which is ever thirsty for more energy to support the process of globalization, especially in some emerging countries of Asia and Latin America.

We also felt that these studies could help identify the main data gaps, weaknesses and inaccuracies of the present statistical databases available in different regional (the Latin American Energy Organization [OLADE], the Asian Institute of Technology [AIT], Environment and Development in the Third World [ENDA], etc.) and international organizations such as FAO (Forest Products Yearbook), the UN (Energy Statistics Yearbook) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) and thus identify the action required to tackle these information gaps. In addition, this analysis could also lead to the identification of several important aspects and issues concerning the main users in different sectors and supply sources.

The results of the first regional study undertaken are described in the document Background overview of available data on wood energy in Europe and OECD countries which gives an overview and comparison of available data on wood energy in FAO, the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the Statistical Office of the European Communities (EUROSTAT), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in Paris.

The main results of this analysis are compiled in eight tables for each organization covered (a total of 40 tables), in order to facilitate mutual comparison of data available for 42 countries grouped as follows: the European Union (EU), OECD non-Europe and Europe non-EU countries. Based on the data collected, a best estimate was made on the use of wood energy for the three country groups.

The data collected led to the preparation of another technical document, The role of wood energy in Europe and OECD countries, which clearly shows that wood energy accounts for approximately 3 percent of the total primary energy supply in the 15 EU countries. However, in Sweden and Finland this reaches more than 16 percent and in Austria 13 percent.

In general, in all the groups examined, approximately 30 to 50 percent of the total wood removed from forests is ultimately used for energy purposes, of which only a small amount is directly derived from the forests; a large amount of wood fuels is derived from other sources, such as forest industry by-products, black liquor from pulp and paper industries and recovered wood.

It should also be noted that in most of the countries analysed, wood fuel is still mainly used in households, with the exception of Sweden and Finland where industrial wood energy constitutes an important contribution to the final energy mix.

Other regional WETT studies covering countries in Asia and Latin America have already been carried out. Draft documents describing the information collected and the main findings are currently being edited. More detailed information on these studies will be provided in future issues of Forest Energy Forum.

Unified wood energy terminology (uwet)

A careful analysis of the wood energy data available in different organizations and agencies has been carried out through the above-mentioned WETT studies, even though it has been difficult (and in some cases almost impossible). Much has been learned, on which we need to reflect carefully, but a lot of work still needs to be done in order to improve our wood energy database and information systems.

From this analysis, we would like to bring to your attention the following three main topics which have direct implications on our future activities:

These three issues have led us to revise our wood energy figures and the mechanisms for their collection, processing and presentation. One of the first steps adopted by the Wood Energy Programme has been the preparation of what we call UWET (unified wood energy terminology), which also includes definitions, units and conversion factors.

We are making considerable progress in this area. A preliminary draft has already been sent to a small group of individuals from different international organizations for their views, opinions and comments. More details on this crucial subject will be provided in future issues of Forest Energy Forum.

Miguel Trossero

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