Another regulatory switch? Are biomass power plants in jeopardy?



The two points of the newest European Parliament resolution of 24 May 2012 on a resource-efficient Europe (2011/2068(INI) are quite striking. The first is under the point 33 in which the European Parliament:


“Calls on the Commission to streamline the waste acquis, taking into account the waste hierarchy and the need to bring residual waste close to zero; calls on the Commission, therefore, to make proposals by 2014 with a view to gradually introducing a general ban on waste landfill at European level and for the phasing-out, by the end of this decade, of incineration of recyclable and compostable waste; this should be accompanied by appropriate transition measures including the further development of common standards based on life-cycle thinking; calls on the Commission to revise the 2020 recycling targets of the Waste Framework Directive; is of the opinion that a landfill tax – as has already been introduced by some Member States – could also help achieve the above ends.”


The phrase that needs to be underlined here is the introduction of the general ban, gradual however, on waste landfill at European level and the phasing-out, by the end 2020, of incineration of recyclable and compostable waste. Further comments in that regard are generally useless – everybody understands what the above propositions may mean in practice if they become law.


The second element, related even closer to climate change issues, appears under point 36 which contains the call of the European Parliament on the Commission:

“to ensure policies drive cascading use of natural raw materials and favouring highest value-added and resource-efficient products over energy generation, taking into account in particular greenhouse gas mitigation potential.


The previous thought has been further explained in the next passage where the European Parliament “Urges the Commission also to promote such a cascading approach in the case of use of biomass, favouring recycling and highest value-added and resource-efficient products, such as bio-based products and industrial materials, over bioenergy.”


Why is it so important? The biomass power plants are now the important part of the green energy-mix, be it 100% biomass or, in some EU countries, co-firing of biomass with fossil fuels. Does the said European Parliament tend to extinguish this process? The realisation of such a scenario inevitably make the achievement of 2020 renewables targets more difficult, and maybe, in some countries, impossible. So, further details of the approach in question need to be revealed to enable further assessments. But the one thing can be said for sure – the regulatory approach considered in that regard by the European Parliament is worth of being closely monitored by risk departments of the energy companies as the merit order of their investment priorities may be highly influenced.