Biomass can be used to produce both heat and electricity.
Biomass is a renewable energy source and can be anything from energy crops to agricultural or forestry residues and biogenic waste. Biomass can be used to produce both heat and electricity. It plays a key role in reducing CO2 emissions from existing coal power plants by co-firing and producing green heat.
Over 15 of Vattenfall's installations are powered entirely or partially by biomass. They are located in Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands. We often use locally sourced fuels like wood chips, forest residues and sawmill by-products, landscape conservation material and compost residues.
In cooperation with farmers from Brandenburg and the western part of Poland, the Vattenfall subsidiary Energy Crops GmbH operates over 2,000 hectares of energy wood plantations – also called short-rotation coppice (SRC) – with fast-growing tree species, mostly poplars and some willow. The trees are planted for a period of up to 20 years and can be harvested every two to four years. The regionally anchored and long-term secured supply of wood from own plantations is an important building block of the fuel supply of our heating installations in Berlin.
At Vattenfall we also conduct biomass supply and trading activities. The focus is on internationally traded standardised products as pellets (both, industrial and residential) and wood chips, originating from Europe, the US and Canada.
Biomass and the environment
By using biomass instead of fossil fuels, CO2 emissions can be significantly reduced, but supply of larger volumes is currently difficult to secure. As far as possible we use locally sourced fuels like wood chips, forest residues and sawmill by-products, to reduce emissions from transportation.
In the Nordic countries, peat has been characterised as a slowly renewable biomass fuel, due to the time taken for it to develop. According to the UN’s climate panel, IPCC, peat is classified as neither a biomass nor a fossil fuel, and has therefore been assigned to a category of its own. Vattenfall’s peat powered plant will be changed to biomass by 2020.
Biomass is a renewable energy source and can be anything from energy crops to agricultural or forestry residues and biogenic waste. To ensure that the use of biomass for energy leads to meaningful CO2 reduction, cultivation and production must be carried out in a controlled, sustainable manner. The cultivation of biomass can impact biodiversity, carbon stocks, soil and air quality. The cultivation can also have social impacts around areas such as land rights issues, working conditions and through potential competition with the use of biomass by local communities in developing countries. Vattenfall continuously monitors our biomass sourcing to ensure the biomass we use is environmentally and socially sustainable.
Vattenfall is a founding member of the Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP), established in 2013. SBP is a certification system designed for woody biomass, mostly in form of wood pellets and wood chips, used in large thermal power plants. The objective of SBP was to develop and maintain an industry standard to ensure that solid biomass used for energy production complies with regulations on sustainability and biomass legality in EU countries.
Formed as an industry-led initiative of energy utilities that use biomass, SBP is now moving towards a real multi-stakeholder structure. The new governance arrangements bring together stakeholder groups representing civil society interests, biomass producer interests and those of biomass end-users.
The initiative's vision is an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable solid biomass supply chain that contributes to a low carbon economy.