Light show with message to Brussels: ‘Biomass out of the EU Directive (RED)’

RWE Amercentrale St-Geertruidenberg, NL | Last night, the Dutch biomass power plant, the biggest coal and biomass-fired power plant in Europe, was confronted by an action against biomass. In the run-up to the plenary vote in Brussels, September 13 on the European “Renewable Energy Directive” (RED), the Dutch nature NGO, Comite Schone Lucht (the Clean Air Committee), member of the International Coalition against Burning Forest Biomass, projected a life-size message, via a light show, on the cooling tower of the Amercentrale. The light show consisted of a short film with a message in Dutch and English. In the projected message, the Committee calls on the 700 Member of European Parliament to stop subsidies and other incentives for biomass combustion in the revised RED: ‘Members of the European Parliament: vote on biomass from the new EU Directive’

Simultaneously with this action, a similar projection was also carried out in Germany by the nature NGO ROBIN WOOD. With these two actions, according to Comite Schone Lucht, Brussels can prepare for more actions on behalf of the coalition on 5, 6 and 7 September in Brussels. The actions also call on the energy industry and European governments to stop burning forest biomass for energy and heat.
RWE Nederland is the largest tree incinerator in the Netherlands and the EU with an annual volume of 2.5 million tons of wood pellets (1.7 million tons in the Amer power station and 0.8 million tons in the Eemshaven power station). The Netherlands itself is the largest importer of forest biomass in Europe. On an annual basis, a total of 6 million tons of wood is burned in the Netherlands, based on more than 850 million euros per year that is spent on promoting this through government subsidies. This 6 million tons corresponds to an annual clear – felling of 20 times per year – the forest of the National Forest Park De Hoge Veluwe.

We are here at a crucial moment where Brussels will vote on whether or not to continue subsidies and other incentives for forest biomass combustion (wood burning) under the amended directive. With the continuation of the current RED, companies will increasingly shift the use of fossil energy to wood. Since the war in Ukraine at the beginning of this year, thanks to the REPowerEU plan from Brussels, extra efforts have been made to increase industrial wood burning. Much of Europe’s renewable energy comes from biomass combustion, which emits more CO2 per unit of energy than fossil fuel combustion. This is the opposite of what is needed.

Comite Schone Lucht

For more information about the promotions, please contact:
Comite Schone Lucht | Fenna Swart |+31 (0)6 415 14 330;
ROBIN WOOD | Jana Ballenthien |+49 (0)40 380 892 11

Watch Action Brussels 2022

Only 14% European forest in good condition.
The removal of wood and wood waste from logging seriously damages the forests. It destroys communities (habitats) for animals and plants, deteriorates biodiversity, depletes carbon in the soil and disrupts the recovery of forests. Only 14% of European forests are of good quality. Much more often European forests are in poor (13 percent) or inadequate (54 percent) condition. Although the area covered by forest has increased over the past thirty years, the state of Europe’s forests is deteriorating.

Logging for biomass reduces carbon stocks
Some countries that are Europe’s largest users and producers of bioenergy, such as Finland and Estonia, are now losing their land-based carbon stocks. In both cases, intensive logging has transformed the land sector from a CO2 storage into a CO2 source. In Finland, government researchers have definitively established that harvesting trees for biomass is the main driver of this process.

No extra energy security
To achieve our climate and nature goals, forests must be protected and restored, rather than burned for energy. Burning more trees does not provide additional energy security for the EU. Power and biomass plants in the EU already import millions of tons of wood pellets from Russia, Ukraine and the US/Canada. The Ukraine war has blocked supplies from Russia and Ukraine. As a result, imports from the US/Canada are coming under further pressure – also with the rising wood prices.

For the sake of our forests, biodiversity and a livable climate, the European Parliament must adopt the position of the Environment Committee of the European Parliament (May 2022) in the general vote on the new Renewable Energy Directive on 13 September: forest biomass should not be counted as ‘ renewable energy’ and do not count towards the renewable energy targets. All subsidies and incentives for forest biomass must be removed from the Directive. This reform will free up billions of euros in subsidies each year for clean, carbon-free renewable energy and energy-saving measures that can help reduce energy poverty. It is the wood-fired power plants of major energy companies that receive the billions in government-funded renewable energy subsidies under the current EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED). Thanks to subsidies and incentives for renewable energy, wood burning by major energy companies has almost tripled since 1990.

Fenna Swart, Comite Schone Lucht

Main reasons for removing biomass incentives from European RED are, according to the Coalition:

  • €40 BILLION IN SUBSIDIES are raised by European taxpayers to support the combustion of biomass. These should be invested in real renewable energy sources;
  • INCREASED (CO2) EMISSIONS: Burning wood emits more CO2 per unit of energy than gas and coal (in addition it emits ultrafine particles). Total CO2 emissions from wood burning in the EU are roughly equivalent to all of France’s CO2 emissions;
  • NON RENEWABLE: Burning wood is not renewable and is counterproductive to achieving the 2030 and 2050 climate goals. Burning wood quickly emits CO2, but trees take decades to centuries to grow back and recapture the emitted CO2;
  • UNSUSTAINABLE: The RED’s sustainability criteria are very weak and vague. Supervision and compliance are lacking. Forests in Natura2000 areas are not protected;
  • NO CONTRIBUTION TO ENERGY SECURITY IN GAS CRISIS: Replacing only 10% of Russian gas would require a 60% increase in logging in EU forests. Forests are currently already over- exploited and the carbon sequestration of European forests is decreasing significantly.

About the Coalition & Comite Schone Lucht (Clean Air Committee)
Comite Schone Lucht has been campaigning against forest biomass for many years in collaboration with ROBIN WOOD and the International Coalition against Burning Forest Biomass. These are (inter)national NGOs that object to biomass plants and co-firing biomass in coal plants for energy, through campaigns and legal proceedings. Together with MOB, the Committee successfully initiated legal proceedings against the nature permit for Vattenfall’s Diemen biomass power station, the largest planned power station in Europe. In collaboration with the Coalition, the Committee also continuously campaigned in recent years against the inclusion of biomass combustion in the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) as part of the new European Climate Program Fitfor55, drawn up by the EU Commission. Every year 3.5 million tons of imported wood pellets are burned in Dutch coal-fired power stations (the required annual clear-cutting is approximately twice the total area of Amsterdam). The total operating subsidy in the period 2019-2027 amounts to 3.6 billion euros. That is 3.6 billion euros from the taxpayer for the most low-value application of wood that exists. The Clean Air Committee, in collaboration with the Forest Defenders Alliance, Dogwood Alliance, Biofuelwatch and international NGOs from the EU Member States, works in close collaboration with both the source countries of the wood pellets (Baltic States and the US). They have been campaigning together against these imports for years. This because of the huge negative climate effects, disastrous deforestation and clear-cutting of forests, the loss of biodiversity worldwide as a result and the effect of the emissions of biomass combustion on air quality (CO2, ultrafine particles, nitrogen).

Phasing out path of biomass in the Netherlands
At the beginning of this year, on April 21, the Clean Air Committee called on the Minister for Climate and Energy, Rob Jetten, on behalf of more than 320,000 Dutch & Europeans, to make haste with the termination of the SDE subsidies for biomass through a clear phase-out, in accordance with the SER advice (June 2020). Until then, the cabinet maintained, despite the SER’s advice, that burning wood from forests should be regarded as ‘CO2-free’ renewable energy. Wood burning was consequently promoted with biomass subsidies. The Committee’s continued actions and the petition were successful. The new minister followed the call. On April 22, the minister announced: ‘The Dutch money tap will be closed immediately for biomass’ warmte-uit-biogrondstoffen. The Committee called this a groundbreaking and courageous decision by the new minister:
‘The Netherlands is setting the tone and challenges Brussels. Much will depend on the continuation of the current (existing) subsidies and co-firing in coal-fired power stations. Tightening up of the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and exclusion of biomass from the European platform is gaining momentum with this Dutch decision. This is a first step and great recognition for our work and ongoing campaigns in recent years at home and abroad on deception and abuses surrounding the biomass file’ said the Committee in response to April 22 of this year.