How sustainable is biomass import?

The coming years are expected to see a major increase in the use of biomass for electrical power generation, transport fuels and manmade chemicals. A Dutch government policy document on the envisioned 'biomass transition' even cites a figure of 30% for the share of biomass in the national energy supply by the year 2040. If this target is to be achieved, biomass feedstocks will have to be imported to the Netherlands. But how can this be done sustainably, as it is obviously undesirable to import 'green' biomass if it competes with food production or harms biodiversity in the country of origin. One of the key issues is therefore the requirements to be met by imports of various types of biomass. Over the past year a working group of industry, government and NGO's working on the biomass transition has examined this question and identified the main issues involved. One of these issues is water and, here as in other respects, biomass cultivation may vary in its regional impact, depleting aquifers in one area but having a positive effect in others. At the request of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs CE has assessed how this initial, exploratory study can be given practical follow-up, thereby collaborating with the ministries of Environment and Foreign Affairs. The aim is to work with local partners in supplier countries to draw up concrete, region-specific criteria to be validated in practical trials. For more information please contact Geert Bergsma bergsma@ce.nl or tel. +31 15 2 150150

Paper in Dutch

Authors CE

Geert Bergsma

Delft, March 2005