The next decade will be crucial for the rapid decarbonisation of the energy sector. Therefore, the main aim of the forthcoming revision of the Guidelines on State aid for climate, environmental protection and energy (CEEAG) is to align them with the incre
The main aim of the forthcoming revision of the Guidelines on State aid for climate, environmental protection and energy (CEEAG) is to align them with the increasing climate ambitions of the EU as well as with the altered market and the technological reality. The next decade will be crucial for the rapid decarbonisation of the energy sector. This process will be implemented thanks to the revision of the main tools of the EU energy and climate policy, introduced by the ‘Fit for 55’ package. The CEEAG framework must contribute to this process, providing Member States with enough flexibility to design fit-forpurpose support measures, support sustainable investments, by setting a level playing field among different clean technologies and facilitate the introduction of new and innovative products and processes to the market.
1. Where are we now?
Bioenergy is the largest source of renewable energy in the EU. Overall, it provides 10% of the gross final energy consumption and it accounts for more than half of the entire consumption of renewable energy in the EU. Starting in 2021, any biomass product used as a fuel for heat and electricity production, is required to comply with sustainability criteria and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission saving criteria enshrined in Article 29 of the Renewable Energy Directive. To be regarded as sustainable and eligible for public support, the sourcing of biomass must comply with a set of criteria including the legality of harvesting, forest regeneration and GHG saving criteria. With sustainability criteria for agriculture and forest, as well as Life Cycle Analysis of GHG emission reduction, bioenergy is sustainability champion, paving the way for the future sustainability framework for other energy sources as well as for food and material supply.
Furthermore, bioenergy is a local and decentralized renewable resource which is predominantly based on locally sourced value chains. Therefore, it is a heavily job-intensive sector with overall 710 000 direct and indirect jobs, providing additional streams of revenues, not only for farmers and foresters, but also for many other service providers and highly qualified engineering jobs in rural areas. Support granted to bioenergy will spread across the entire value chain and thus vastly contribute to rural and regional development.
2. State aid and the transition
The future of the bioenergy industry will depend on its sustainability performance. In this regard, the sector is in the process of implementing thoroughly sustainability criteria. Subsequently, bioenergy use will be based on the improved traceability and transparency of the value chain and the environmental impact of forest management that is necessary for climate change adaptation. This perspective is in line with the energy and climate objectives of the EU. The analysis of the main documents prepared by the Member States (Integrated National Energy and Climate Plans), and by the European Commission (Communication on 2030 Climate Target) demonstrates the increasing role of bioenergy in the EU energy mix by 2030 and 2050. Similarly, according to the recent report of the International Energy Agency ‘Net Zero by 2050’ the modern bioenergy share in the total energy supply will rise from 6.6% in 2020 to 18.7% in 2050. In this context, public investments and support facilitate meeting both sustainability requirements and increasing the contribution of bioenergy in the energy mix, providing dispatchable generation capacities that are complementary with the increasingly intermittent energy mix, and helping to decarbonise fossil fuel dominated sectors like heating, transport, and electricity.
3. How do we get there?
The transition towards climate neutrality will require unprecedented financial mobilisation. State aid conditioning access to public investment and guarantees will play the key role in tipping the market balance for numerous projects and allowing clean and innovative technologies to flourish. The bioenergy sector advocates for the most efficient use of public support to modernise and innovate the bioenergy sector outlook.
To achieve this, the CEEAG should entail the following 6 main messages:
1. The revised CEEAG should mirror the existing Renewable Energy Directive II and be consistent concerning the definitions used. In this regard, any form of arbitrary differentiation among renewable technologies, for instance by introducing the term ‘zero air pollution renewable energy sources’, is unacceptable and undermines the principle of the coherence of the EU law.
2. Member States should benefit from increased flexibility to design fit for purpose support schemes and cut red tape. It can be achieved thanks to higher notification thresholds.
3. Biofuels including sustainable food-based biofuels and bioliquids should be recognized and supported as one of the main existing technologies facilitating the decarbonisation of the transport sector. Their contribution to GHG mitigation must be maintained.
4. Operating support for depreciated bioenergy plants should be allowed as it guarantees the use of cleaner energy solutions and minimises the risk of re-decarbonisation.
5. The pace of decarbonisation of the heating sector must increase. The CEEAG should incentivise investments in clean and renewable heating solutions including district heating and cogeneration.
6. Essential innovations like bioenergy with carbon capture and storage and other biomass-based CO2 removal technologies are crucial for achieving the EU’s ambition to become climate-neutral by 2050. The CEEAG should contain concrete instruments to support them.
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