The European Parliament voted on the Renewable Energy Directive yesterday. As a result, the Parliament took a considerably weaker stand than the Commission’s proposal with regard to raw material and energy self-sufficiency. The Parliament is questioning the renewability of primary woody biomass, such as small-dimensioned wood, crowns and branches. The Directive has wide consequences for the forest industry.

The Parliament is setting a cap on the use of primary woody biomass that corresponds with the share of the overall energy consumption of the average of such fuels in 2017 - 2022. Any volumes that exceed the cap are not accounted towards the renewable energy target. According to the Parliament the cap will be phased down by 2030, based on an impact assessment by the European Commission.

The Parliament is also tightening the sustainability criteria of forest biomass. Parliament accepted a vague vision of how branches and crowns obtained from clear-cutting can be used for energy production. Large volumes of components used in bioenergy production, such as branches and crowns, are acquired when industrial timber is harvested. In the future, these components retrieved from clear-cutting areas should not be necessarily included in the renewable energy targets.

The Parliament is suggesting that the hierarchy of wood use (the “cascade principle”) would be included in EU legislation with an implementing regulation instead of the delegated regulation proposed by the Commission. The Finnish Forest Industries Federation sees some positives in this view, but it also emphasises that the use of the cascade principle should be a matter of national discretion. The forests and industrial structures of the Member States of the EU are remarkably different and EU-wide legislation will make the wise use of wood challenging.

In order to get rid of the fossil economy, products made from renewable wood are needed.

“In the context of the current energy crisis and abandonment of the fossil economy, the Parliament’s stand on the Renewable Energy Directive fails to take the importance of EU’s raw material and energy self-sufficiency into account. The Council and Commission will have their hands full with making this current matter an important theme of public debate in the upcoming trilogues,” says Maija Rantamäki, the Finnish Forest Industries Federation’s Manager of International and EU Forest Affairs.