EU primary energy production from solid biomass including wood, waste wood fell 2.9% year-over-year in 2011 after more than doubling over previous decade, as exceptionally mild winter reduced demand: report

PARIS , December 4, 2012 (press release) – Highlights from the three newly published barometers: growth indicators for the 27 European Member States

  • Solid Biomass Barometer: -2,9 % primary energy production from solid biomass between 2010 and 2011 (see next page)
  • Biogas Barometer: +18,2 % biogas electricity production growth in 2011 (see next page)
  • Renewable Municipal Waste Barometer: +2,6 % primary energy production from renewable municipal waste in the EU relative to 2010 (see page 3)

EurObserv’ER Solid Biomass Barometer

Growth of primary energy production from solid biomass in the EU between 2010 and 2011: -2.9%

Key data for solid biomass in the 27 European Member States in 2011:

  • Heat consumption from solid biomass in the EU: 64.9 Mtoe
  • Electricity produced from solid biomass in the EU: 72.8 TWh
  • Primary energy production from solid biomass in the EU: 78.8 Mtoe
The winter of 2011 was exceptionally mild, even in Northern Europe, with unusual high temperatures. As a result the demand for firewood and solid biomass fuel was low. The European Union’s primary energy production from solid biomass between 2010 and 2011 contracted by 2.9% Solid biomass electricity production continued to grow, driven by the additional take-up of biomass co-firing.The EurObserv’ER consortium’s preliminary estimates reveal that primary energy production from solid biomass (wood, waste wood, other plant and animal-based biomass) decreased by 2.4 Mtoe in 2011 slipping to 78.8 Mtoe.

Looking back at the statistics from the past 20 years, EurObserv’ER concludes that this drop in solid biomass energy production is very out of character. Since 1990, it has been constantly growing in the European Union, apart from a dip in 1999. In fact it more than doubled over the 1990-2010 period (39.5 Mtoe produced in 1990).

EurObserv’ER Biogas Barometer

Growth electricity production from biogas in 2011: +18,2 %

Key data for biogas in the 27 European Member States in 2011:
  • 10.1 Mtoe primary biogas energy produced in 2011
  • Biogas electricity produced in 2011: 35.9 TWh
  • Share of landfill gas in the total biogas production: 31.3%

Biogas energy recovery for both electricity and heat application has increased in the European Union. The magnitude of the reduction in the primary energy figure can be played down as it can be explained by a change in reporting method of the main producer country, Germany. New markets are starting to emerge in its footsteps, but the economic crisis and regulatory restrictions do not auger well for their expansion.

EurObserv’ER considers estimating the increase in primary energy production from biogas a hard task this year, because the main producer country that accounts for half of Europe’s production changed its primary energy calculation method for small cogeneration plants in 2011. As the bulk of the Germany’s primary energy is generated by these plants, the methodology change amounts to a quantum leap.

Electricity and heat production, through cogeneration or otherwise, are the main forms of biogas recovery in the European Union. Most of the increase in primary energy output is finding its way into electricity production. Between 2010 and 2011, 18.2% to 35.9 TWh, while over the same period, biogas heat sales to factories or heating networks increased by 16%. Most of the heat produced is used directly on site for drying sludge, heating buildings and maintaining the digester at optimum temperature.

The European Union is laying the groundwork for a third recovery option: biomethane (purified biogas) injection into natural gas grids. The European Green Gas Grids project study has identified at least 177 biomethane plants in Europe including 128 that feed into national natural gas distribution grids. The remaining plants use the biomethane generated on the production site, primarily as fuel.

EurObserv’ER Renewable Municipal Waste Barometer

The growth of primary energy output from renewable municipal waste in the EU relative to 2010: +2.6%

Key data for biogas in the 27 European Member States in 2011:
  • Primary energy produced from the combustion of renewable municipal waste in the European Union in 2011: 8.2 Mtoe
  • Electricity output from renewable municipal waste in the European Union in 2011: 18.2 TWh

Energy recovery by incinerating household refuse in the European Union led to renewable energy production of more than 8.2 million tonnes of oil equivalent in 2011, which is a 2.6% increase on 2010. While the increase in waste-to-energy recovery is preferable to using landfills, under no circumstances should this growth be made at the cost of waste prevention and recycling policies.

Recovery in the form of electricity, estimated at 18.2 TWh in 2011 compared to 17.2 TWh in 2010, is still the preferred channel and is rising constantly. Obviously heat sales from these plants present a better picture in those countries where district heating networks are more widespread (Germany, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands). This recovery channel has tended to increase slowly over the past three years, at 2 Mtoe in 2011.

Other information in all Barometers

Besides the 2011 realisations per EU Member State other subjects that are discussed in the new barometers are:
  • Selected country reviews
  • Renewable energy policies
  • Industry overview
  • Comparison with National Renewable Energy Action Plans

For additional information on renewable energy issues (data referring to 2010, among others EU Member State renewable energy employment, turnover and realisations) see also the annual EurObserv’ER publication ‘The State of Renewable Energies in Europe’, 2011 edition: (January 2012, PDF, English/French language, 248 pages, 12.7 MB).

Note: the interactive database on the website (click on ‘Interactive EurObserv’ER Database’ on the homepage) allows you to download the Barometer data separately. This will allow you to create your own graphs to be used in your publication.

See also the EurObserv’ER policy files at for an overview of renewable energy policies in all 27 EU Member States for all technologies

About the EurObserv’ER Barometer
The EurObserv’ER Barometer regularly publishes indicators reflecting the current dynamics in renewable energies (solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal and biomass, biogas, biofuels) worldwide and within the European Union.

The EurObserv’ER barometer is a project supported by the European Commission within the DG Energy "Intelligent Energy Europe" programme. It is also supported by Ademe, the French Environment and Energy management Agency, and Caisse des Dépôts.

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