What do YOU think of when you hear the term bioenergy?

Asking people across Europe what bioenergy is often raises more questions than it solves – and this is understandable!

Today, bioenergy represents the largest renewable energy source in the EU – covering 57,4% of the EU’s renewable energy mix. It is a versatile and flexible energy type. In fact, bioenergy is the only renewable energy source (RES) that can provide for the three main sources of energy needed in both private households and industry: heating, power generation and transportation. Bioenergy is mainly produced from local biomass (import dependency being below 4% for the whole sector), and it generates a considerable economic growth and jobs (more than 800.000 jobs!)

Despite its widely-recognised role in fostering EU climate-neutral transition, the bioenergy industry and its complex value-chain encompass a wide range of products and conversion processes. In fact, bioenergy is a term that can have different meanings for describing various feedstock and uses. Woody biomass, agricultural biomass, energy crops, biofuels, bioheat, biopower, solid biomass, bioliquids and biogas, are all different subcategories of the bioenergy sector. In addition, technological progress regularly generates new feedstocks and appliances – enriching the field of bioenergy with neologisms.

To better understand and assess the role of bioenergy in the EU’s energy transition, it is essential to properly define the terms used in the sector in a straightforward way. This page will guide you through the key facts, main concepts and applications of bioenergy.

Bioenergy – a versatile and flexible energy source

Bioenergy is the only renewable energy source that can provide for the three main sectors of energy needed in both private households and industry: heating, power generation and transport.

These three sectors are still heavily reliant on fossil fuels. According to the latest EUanalysis, bioenergy has the potential to significantly increase within the limits of a sustainably available biomass.

Biomass for heating

76% of bioenergy’s final energy consumption is for heating purposes. Bioheat currently offers a reliable and affordable solution to decarbonising domestic and district heating, as well as the industry. Read more.

Biomass for power generation

Bioenergy covers 5,3% of total electricity in EU-27 and represents 15,4% of total renewable electricity. Because RES intermittency remains an issue biomass is essential to maintaining grid stability since it represents a dispatchable and reliable back-up energy source.
Read more.

Biofuel for transport

The transport sector has always been the most challenging sector for renewables market penetration, representing 6,8% of EU-27 total energy consumption.  The biggest contribution to renewable energy in the EU transport system comes from sustainable biofuels (89%), consumption of which grew consistently in the last decade.
Read more. 

Bioenergy comes in all shapes and sizes

More than any other renewable energy, bioenergy covers a wide range of feedstocks and conversion technologies.

Organic materials such as plants, algae and organic wastes can be valuable fuels as soon as technology makes it possible to efficiently extract all of their energy potential. We refer to biomass when describing these usable feedstocks.

Biomass currently being used in Europe includes wood from forests, agricultural crops and residues, by-products of the wood and agricultural industries, herbaceous and woody energy crops, and municipal organic waste and manure. Future potential lies with algae and marine biomass.

Solid bioenergy feedstock

More than 2/3 of biomass consumed in Europe consists of solid biomass, which is forestry residue and, to a limited extent, agricultural by-products. Read more.

Biofuel feedstock

Represents 12% of gross inland energy consumption of biomass. Biofuel comes in the form of bioethanol and biodiesel. Bioethanol is mainly produced from grains and sugar beet derivatives. Biodiesel’s most common feedstock remains rapeseed oil, but the use of another feedstock may vary based on local and national production. Read more.

Biogas feedstock

Represents 11% of gross inland energy consumption of biomass. In EU27, landfill and sewage gas accounts for approx 25% of total biogas production with most biogas being produced from anaerobic fermentation of agricultural feedstock (71%). Read more.

Municipal & industrial waste feedstock

Waste-to-energy is the 4th most important category of bioenergy feedstock being used in Europe. Read more.

Biomass & EU forests

In 2019, 70% of the bioenergy consumed in Europe was sourced from forests. Among all biomass materials, wood has always been the most popular source of energy in Europe. Forests are also a key habitat for biodiversity and act as a carbon sink.

Biomass and the state of EU forests

Contrary to popular belief, EU-27 forests have been steadily growing over the past decades. In 1990, European forests totaled 19,7 billion m3 and in 2020 they reached 27,35 billion m3. This means that forest stock increased by 37% over the past 30 years. Read more.

Sustainable sourcing of biomass

Bioenergy providers in Europe do not just use any type of wood indiscriminately. Both for economic and environmental reasons, woody biomass is sourced from by-products of forest management operations and of the wood industry like sawmills. Read more.

Biomass and benefits for the forest

Discussing sustainable woody bioenergy is tricky because it depends on many variables and assumptions. Read more.

Biomass and synergies with the forestry sector

The bioenergy sector has grown steadily, becoming an established player alongside traditional industries. However, this does not mean that wood removal for bioenergy has increased. Read more.

Biomass Processing

Bioenergy is one of the most reliable forms of clean energy being adopted by companies, municipalities and households all across Europe today. This section offers a brief overview of the specific processes and technologies:

Solid Biomass Conversion Processes

If you have ever tried to make a fire using green wood, you already know that combustion happens when moisture is limited. This is why most technologies developed over the past decades have focused on ways to reduce water in the final product. Read more.

Wet Biomass Conversion Processes

Wet biomass is present in high volume across Europe (manure, agricultural waste or by-products). Anaerobic digestion and fermentation are the 2 main conversion pathways used for transforming wet biomass feedstock into advanced fuel.  Read more.

Sustainable bioenergy: a flexible renewable energy source and the key to the EU climate and energy transition

Bioenergy’s contribution to the EU’s renewable energy objectives is crucial. By 2020, bioenergy was expected to contribute to half of the EU’s 20% renewable energy target. In fact, bioenergy exceeded this target and currently contributes wih 57,4% to the total renewable energy mix. In 2020, bioenergy consumption in EU-27 reached 139.277 kilotonnes of oil equivalent which is more than double the consumption in 2000.

About the campaign

The campaign is powered by Bioenergy Europe and relayed across Europe by both national and international partners supporting the belief that bioenergy is more than a renewable energy source, it is also a reliable path that will lead Europe to achieve its renewable energy transition in the shortest span of time.