How Intelligent Energy – Europe II supported policy making and implementation for the market uptake of bioenergy in Europe

By Silvia Vivarelli, Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, European Commission, Emilio Font de Mora, Innovation and Networks Executive Agency, European Commission, and Pat Howes, Ricardo Energy & Environment
Winter 2016

The EU Intelligent Energy – Europe II (IEE II) programme supported the market uptake of bioenergy in Europe with EUR 48.3 million of funds from 2007 to 2013. A new report prepared by Ricardo Energy & Environment for the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) of the European Commission reveals that, by June 2016, the programme triggered over 1.65 Mtoe of bioenergy and saved 5.7 Mt of carbon dioxide emissions, predominantly from heat production, and stimulated over EUR 0.9 billion investment in bioenergy. Those are conservative figures, and if potential data is taken into account then the achieved impact of the IEE II programme could be much higher.

Bioenergy is playing an important role in the achievement of Europe’s 2020 renewable energy targets. However, despite significant advances in technological development and innovation, a number of nontechnological market barriers present challenges to the uptake of bioenergy as a whole. These include:

  • A lack of knowledge, skills and confidence in biomass feedstocks and available technologies
  • Insufficient mobilisation of biomass and underdevelopment of effective biomass supply chains
  • Unfavourable policy frameworks at local, regional and national levels

All of these barriers are interlinked.

Since 2003 the Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE) programme has funded specific actions to address nontechnological barriers in bioenergy to improve energy sustainability, support policy development and implementation across the EU, prepare the ground for investments and improve the capacity and skills of European market actors.

Over the course of the second phase of the programme (IEE II, running from 2007 to 2013), more than 2.8 million stakeholders were informed on bioenergy, more than 200,000 attended IEE II events and 14,600 were engaged in development meetings and site visits.

The programme contributed to the development of 443 business plans and 1,536 feasibility studies, resulting in the concrete implementation of 236 biomass supply chains. IEE II bioenergy projects have been linked directly with the development of over 400 plants across the EU representing over 165 MW, most of them as heat or Combined Heat and Power plants.

The leverage effect of the IEE II programme has been EUR 18.9 million investment and 0.035 Mtoe of bioenergy generated per EUR million of EU funding.

This article specifically focuses on how creating a favourable policy framework is enabling bioenergy uptake at the local and regional level.

A common challenge of IEE bioenergy projects has come from facing an unfavourable policy framework. Policy makers at European, national, regional and local levels need to recognise the benefits of using biomass for energy production.

Bioenergy has a number of unique attributes that make it an important component in Europe's short and long term renewable energy ambitions. Bioenergy can be produced in a decentralised manner, makes use of local resources and contributes to local development. Biomass can also be stored and used when convenient and the energy produced fed directly into the gas and electricity grids. Significantly, bioenergy also requires low capital investment to convert from traditional fuel sources. This makes it an attractive option to deliver local energy needs while potentially offering a rapid return on investment.

Policy makers have been involved in IEE II projects in different ways, such as attending project events, participating directly in project activities such as training, round tables, meetings and study tours or being members of project teams or part of project steering committees or working groups.

In IEE II bioenergy projects, direct contacts occurred with 560 policy makers, with many more attending conferences or other events. Recommendations to address specific barriers were provided and methodologies, decisionmaking and policy supporting tools were developed, such as modelling of biomass and bioenergy potentials – and Geographic Information Systems showing those potentials – and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission calculators.

Many of these tools have been recognised at European level and in a number of EU Member States. Some of these tools have contributed to armonisation between some Member States, such as the standardised method of calculating bioenergy GHG emissions developed in the BioGrace (for liquid and gaseous biofuels for transport) and BioGrace II (for solid and gaseous biofuels for heat and electricity) projects. The BioGrace GHG calculation tool has been recognised as a voluntary scheme by the European Commission and has been endorsed by some EU Member States. The tool developed by BioGrace-II is mentioned as a reference tool to facilitate the calculation of GHG emissions in the European Commission's Communication (SWD(2014)259) on the state of play of the sustainability of solid and gaseous biomass used for electricity generation, heating and cooling in the EU.

Outcomes from IEE II bioenergy projects have informed studies prepared for the European Commission to inform the Commission's policy making. This includes results from Biomass Futures, which provides quantitative information at EU level on biomass potential to meet the European renewable 2020 targets and BiomassPolicies, which is aimed at supporting the development of integrated policies for the mobilisation of resource efficient indigenous bioenergy chains. Likewise, BioTrade2020plus is supporting the development of an EU bioenergy trade strategy ensuring that imported bioresources are sustainably sourced and used in an efficient way, limiting distortion of other markets.

At a local level, 76 biomass action plans, roadmaps or implementation plans were developed. Of these, 59 were aimed at specific regions, five provided plans for relevance at EU level and 12 were aimed at national level. These resulted in 39 action plans or project recommendations being implemented at the regional level and 17 at the national level.

The following case studies show concrete examples of how IEE II projects have supported policy-making and implementation at different levels.

SUCCESS STORY: supporting bioenergy uptake in rural regions in Europe
A particularly successful project at local level is the BioRegions project.

Rural areas in Europe are ideally placed to benefit from bioenergy generation. In these regions, local economies are often dominated by agriculture and forestry, offering an immediate supply of biomass for energy generation. However, key stakeholders in local government often have limited experience in implementing local bioenergy exploitation, and low visibility of the financial and environmental benefits it can bring.

The IEE II BioRegions project aimed to support five rural areas in Europe to supply at least a third of their heating and electricity needs from local and sustainable biomass sources. During the project a range of workshops and events were carried out, involving business owners, local government decision makers and other local stakeholders to formulate a shared vision for bioenergy production in the targeted regions. Study tours to best practice regions in Sweden and Germany were organised to demonstrate how similar areas have successfully supported bioenergy uptake. Policy makers were supported to develop regional action plans, which resulted in the implementation of more than 20 bioenergy projects, with a total installed capacity of 14 MW and another 18 energy efficiency projects that contribute to the bioenergy target by reducing the energy demand. The project also inspired other regions: over 130 additional regions expressed interest in developing similar activities.

SUCCESS STORY: facilitating the international trade of biomethane in Europe
At European and national level, the GreenGasGrids project aimed to increase the production and use of biomethane (from animal waste, other waste materials and sustainable biomass), for grid injection and as transport fuel, by removing nontechnical barriers and paving the way towards a European biomethane market.

The project achieved an agreement on a harmonised methodology to allow the cross border market of biomethane and to establish 'guarantees of origin' and agreement to exchange information on biomethane transactions in six countries: Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland and the UK.

In addition, 10 national biomethane roadmaps and one pan-EU roadmap were produced. The European Biomethane Roadmap drew attention to the potential of bio-methane at EU level with a vision to reach 18-20 billion m3 of biomethane production by 2030. This figure is estimated to represent about 3% of the European natural gas consumption and a minimum of 10% of the total gaseous vehicle fuel consumption by 2030. The EU roadmap received positive feedback from several policy makers and European relevant organisations.

IEE II bioenergy projects have played an important role in the development of bioenergy in Europe and continue to influence the sector at present and into the foreseeable future.

To find out more about the impacts and achievements of IEE II bioenergy projects, download the full report "Review of bioenergy projects implemented under IEE II" and the summary report "Impacts and achievements of bioenergy projects supported under the EU programme IEE II" at the EASME website:

Since 2014, Horizon 2020, the common EU programme for Research and Innovation, supports actions for renewable energy market uptake, including bioenergy. Several Horizon 2020 projects are building up and wide-spreading the successful results obtained in IEE II. For information on the bioenergy projects supported under the Competitive Low-Carbon Energy calls visit the INEA website:

The information provided is resulting from a review performed by Ricardo Energy & Environment. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Union. The European Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.