“double pellet output”
Enviva aims to double its pellet production by 2030. The global pellet market is growing at an almost unimaginable rate, says Justin Tait, a spokesperson for the company. Two-thirds of production is still exported to Europe. But as early as 2025, half of them will go to Asia – to South Korea and Japan in particular.
Justin Tait describes the company’s vision as follows: “In the long term, we see an increasing demand for pellets, also for high-value applications. As a raw material for fuel in aviation, for example, as biomass to power ships, as process heat in cement plants. The companies involved should work In a world where carbon dioxide emissions and prices play a central role – especially in the European Union.
Enviva bills itself as a campaigner against climate change
By expanding its production, the pellet company Enviva is fighting against climate change and for the sustainable management of forests – says company spokesman Tait – despite all the criticism: “We buy wood exclusively from forest owners who contractually undertake to continue using harvested land as forest. We don’t You buy from people who say, “I’m going to sell my cleared land for construction or use it for something other than reforestation.”
The bad consequences of a biomass boom
Meanwhile, the disastrous consequences of the biomass boom fueled by the EU are becoming apparent in Europe: a third of forests now consist of monocultures. Half of the trees are of the same age. Therefore, the goal of having mostly mixed forests that are able to adapt to climate is a long way off. Likewise, the goal of expanding our forests as carbon dioxide decreases.
On the contrary: according to the EU Forest Information System, the amount of carbon stored in EU forests decreased by 4.3 percent between 2015 and 2020, by 13 percent in southeastern Europe, and by up to 50 percent in the Iberian Peninsula. . According to FERN expert Martin Pigeon, the reasons for this are, on the one hand, climate change with droughts, forest fires and beetle epidemics, and on the other hand, and to a much greater extent, the European Union’s incentives to burn wood in order to produce electricity and heat.
Fire letter to Brussels
In light of this, 500 European scientists sent a fire letter to the EU Commission on February 21, 2021, warning against industrial energy production with wood. This amplifies climate change, even if wood replaces fossil fuels.
“We demand that the conversion of coal-fired power plants to wood burning should not be encouraged, encouraged or made under any circumstances, neither in Germany nor anywhere else in Europe,” says David Fritsch, forestry expert at Deutsche Umwelthilfe. In particular, we are working At the European level to ensure that biomass taken directly from the forest for the sole purpose of burning it is not considered renewable energy because in doing so we destroy important ecosystems.”
EEG guidance repair
After all, the European Union has recently been working on reforming the Renewable Energy Directive. The big hurdle here: According to the European Parliament’s decision in September to reform the Directive, the EU is set to cover 45 percent of its energy needs from renewable resources by 2030.
However, in most countries of Northern and Eastern Europe, these resources consist of 70 percent wood. If wood is no longer largely considered “renewable,” these countries will fail to meet the renewable energy target. Their resistance to any new regulation is likely to be bitter – especially if the current energy crisis worsens again.
accordingly already be The final decision of the European Union ParliamentWith regard to wood, a soft compromise, explains the Austrian Thomas Weitz, a member of the Greens group in the European Parliament: “The compromise proposal provides for a freeze on the amount of primary wood that can be used for energy at the level that we obtained on average between 2017 and 2022 ” .
In addition, this compromise includes one or two “backdoors”: “Damaged wood is not considered primary wood. So if the wood is from a bark beetle infestation, from gusts of wind, or just dried out in a dry summer, this does not apply to wood.” basic”.
How can the use of wood slow climate change?
How can forest management and timber use actually reduce our dependence on fossil energy and thus slow climate change? In Germany, most forests are managed sustainably, says Franz Strubinger, who was responsible for 8,000 hectares of forest belonging to the Counts of Hatzfeldt in Rhineland-Palatinate for 30 years. In fact, the biomass and carbon storage capacity of the German forest is constantly increasing, and former monoculture farms are being transformed into species-rich and climate-resistant forests.
Walking down an avenue of towering giant trees, Straubinger points out two red oak trees: “The oak is about 160 years old now. What’s above the ground. We don’t know how old the roots are. Our goal is that we can use these trees. Let them grow thickly.” They must regenerate naturally and the next generation must develop under their old crowns. We want to have mixed forests – at least four or five types of trees in the same forest. But we also want a vertical gradient, i.e. young and old, thick and thin, with young trees And large next to each other.
Maintain the forest regularly.
This only works, says Franz Staudinger, if the forest is regularly taken care of, reduced in size and thus harvested the wood that can be brought to market – sawn timber, but also firewood. During the walk, we see healthy-looking oaks and beeches, wild cherry trees, birch, poplar, Douglas fir, maple, and elm.
Unfortunately, spruce and pine have suffered greatly from the rigors of recent years, says Straubinger. This forest has been owned by Count Hatzfeldt for nearly a thousand years, he says. The commitment to preserving it for the next generation is at the heart of the family’s ethos.
“Accurate, sustainable and natural”
Of course, the forest has also experienced faults and crises over the centuries. But as far as Straubinger can remember, the iron principle of “cautious, sustainable, natural” applies in the Hatzfeldt forests.
In concrete terms, this means: “With our natural management of forests we always leave dead trees standing. We do not turn our wood up to the apex bud, but from about ten centimeters branches or parts of the trunk remain in the forest. The soil needs this as a source of nutrients, “But also as a habitat for many plants and animals. It is not a contradiction in terms of having firewood and biological wood next to each other. On the contrary, they both complement each other.”
Firewood and domestic heating can be climate friendly
Franz Straubinger is an example for the many private and state-owned companies in Germany that strive for sustainable forest management. These companies obtain firewood and pellets from regional courses.
With the help of certificates such as “En plus” for the pellets, they make the origin of the wood traceable to the customer. He could buy this wood with a clear conscience. Local heat production by a biomass power plant can also be climate friendly if the wood for it is sourced sustainably.
Large power plants with wood burning pose the threat
However, threats to forests in Europe and elsewhere remain from growing demand for fuelwood from coal-fired power plants that shift their energy production from fossil fuels to wood – such as the Drax power station in Yorkshire or the Gardin in Bouches-du-Rhône. . in the south of France. How the EU approaches this challenge will become clear when EU bodies pass the revised Renewable Energy Directive.