Bio-Scope. Use and availability of sustainable biomass

The Dutch government plans to draw up an integral sustainability framework for assessing all types of biomass and all biomass applications. This CE Delft report feeds into that process and has been used, along with a parallel Joint Fact Finding study (2020), for preparing the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) report on biomass.

This study examines the availability and uses of ‘sustainable biomass’ at two points in the future, 2030 and 2050, and is broad in scope. It covers biomass use as a material (e.g. construction timber), chemical feedstock, energy feedstock/fuel and agricultural input (soil improvement). On the supply side it covers all relevant sources – agricultural, forestry, aquatic – and all types of biomass stream: primary production and various kinds of waste.

Data summaries are provided on sectoral demand in the Netherlands in 2030 and 2050 and biomass availability in the Netherlands, the EU28 and global.

Biomass: opportunity or risk?
On both the availability and demand side there is a considerable spread in data, owing to the major differences in assumptions in the scenario studies from which the data derive. These studies can be classed under two headings:

  1. Opportunity-focused approaches, developing scenarios that seek to identify scope for increased biomass availability, as a potential source of materials, chemical feedstocks and energy/fuels as well as as a basis for sustainable national economic development.
  2. Risk-focused approaches, focusing mainly on risks vis-à-vis ecology and sustainability, certainly a concern if large amounts of biomass are used in the cited applications without political steps to guarantee the biomass is indeed sustainable. Compared with the ‘opportunity-focused approaches’, these approaches arrive at (far) lower figures for both availability and demand.

The considerable ranges in demand and availability as well as the differences between the two approaches present policy-makers with challenges. We recommend adopting what we have termed the Trias Bio-Logica. While its constituent elements are not new, the term is, as well as the hierarchy proposed, as follows:

  1. Reduce demand for sustainable biomass.
  2. Increase availability of sustainable biomass.
  3. Prioritize applications still lacking sustainable alternatives.



RH DHV: Maarten van den Berg, Harry Croezen, Iris Pronk
Illustraties: Yulia Ink.