European Commission proposes reforming policies under its CAP program to further support rural forestry development for renewable energy production beyond 2013; enhancing supply chain's efficiency should be a priority, says Finnish official

LOS ANGELES , September 23, 2011 () – The European Commission (EC) is proposing policy reforms to increase support for rural forestry as a means of boosting renewable energy production beyond 2013, reported on Sept. 21.

The proposed reforms to the EC’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are expected to include further actions on forests under the European Union’s (EU) rural development policy. Measures also will be made available to member states who seek to focus on forests and renewable energy development.

These legislative proposals for post-2013 are to be tabled by the EC on Oct. 12. During Oct. 25-27, a rural development program on generating bioenergy from forests is to be held in Finland.

The EU Forestry Strategy and Action Plan, which was adopted in 2006, underscores the importance of forestry in rural development, although forest policy is mostly left to the bloc’s individual countries.

However, with only up to 70% of the EU’s annual forest growth being harvested -- and 42% of this used for energy -- the EC seeks to take further advantage of forests for energy feedstock. Wood is used for about 80% of biomass-based power production in the EU, according to the EC.

Policymakers looking at CAP reforms seek to find ways to be used this resource for bioenergy during 2014-2020.

The supply chain should be a top priority to “guarantee the supply” of woody biomass to power plants, said Juha-Matti Markkola, an official at the Finnish National Rural Network.

Highlighting how crucial it is to support process advancements that further supply chain efficiency, Markkola is pushing for funding the sector’s support groups. Technical innovations help with such wood harvesting challenges as difficult terrains, he said.

Wood fuel is already competitive with other conventional types of energy, especially in areas that now largely use heating oil, said Markkola.

Finland’s use of wood for biomass energy production is already ahead of other countries and nearly 80% of its land area is forested. Small-scale thermal power stations fed with wood chips heat schools and public buildings throughout the country, said Markkola.

The primary source of this article is PLC, Brussels, Belgium, on Sept. 21, 2011.

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