Covenant on sustainability of biomass. Annual report 2021

In 2015, energy companies and environmental organisations concluded the Biomass Sustainability Covenant (hereafter referred to as the Covenant). The Covenant also stipulates that an independent party must report annually on the efforts made and results achieved. This report describes the efforts made and the results achieved for the year 2021 with regard to the use of biomass, compliance with the sustainability requirements, the progress of the incentive programme agreed in the Covenant and the realisation of the minimum growth track and ambition path. The data in this report were provided by the energy companies and the Dutch Biomass Certification (DBC) foundation. The energy companies have provided confidential detailed data at delivery level. Due to competition rules, these are presented in aggregate in this report, and for the same reason we sometimes use qualitative terms such as ‘the vast majority’ rather than precise figures.

Biomass use
In 2021, a total of 3,158,781 tonnes of biomass was used for co-firing in coal-fired power stations in the Netherlands. This is 1.4 times the figure for 2020. In 2021, 96.6% of the biomass used was wood pellets. Of the total biomass input for co-firing in 2021, 92.6% by mass (rounded off) consisted of biogenic residual and waste flows (Category 5), 6.4% of woody biomass from forest management units smaller than 500 hectares (Category 2) and 1.1% of woody biomass from forest management units larger than 500 hectares (Category 1). The Category 2 biomass was entirely to the subcategory ‘risk-based approach’.

In 2021, the majority of biomass was from North America (47%). 32% was from the EU. A further 21% came from non-EU European countries, including Russia.

Statutory and non-statutory sustainability requirements
The statutory sustainability requirements will be covered 100% in 2021, according to the RVO overview of the coverage of the requirements. One hundred percent of the Category 1 biomass and Category 2 biomass (or 7% of the total biomass input) meets the non-statutory requirements, if the line of the findings of the Disputes Committee is followed and the interim regulation is applied.

Realisation of the growth track towards FSC or equivalent certification at plot level
According to the interpretation based on the Covenant text alone, the agreements on the Covenant’s minimum growth track for 2021 (at least 80% certification of Category 1 and Category 2 biomass at plot level) have not been realised according to the information provided, because the sustainability of Category 1 biomass and Category 2 biomass has been demonstrated for 14 percentage points with certification at plot level. Because this growth track has been formulated as a best-efforts obligation, it cannot be said based on this realisation that the Covenant agreements have not been met.

If the interpretation of the energy companies is followed, the agreements on the minimum growth path for 2021 have been realised since the sustainability of 100 percentage points of the Category 2 biomass has been demonstrated with the risk-based approach. The energy companies have reported that they will abide by the rules of the SDE+ decisions, demonstrating compliance with the legal requirements until 2023 based on the risk-based approach, as follows from the growth track included in the Verification Protocol. If we also apply the line of the Disputes Committee regarding the interim regulation to the growth track regarding the non-statutory requirements, the conclusion is that the agreements for the growth track have been met by the companies with regard to the non-statutory requirements.