Voluntary Agreement on Sustainability of Biomass. Annual report 2019 and mid-term review

In 2015 energy companies and environmental NGOs concluded the Voluntary Agreement on Sustainability of Biomass, one of the terms of which is that an independent party reports annually on actions undertaken and results achieved. This report, then, describes the efforts and results for 2019 with respect to use of biomass, compliance with the sustainability criteria, progress of the incentive package under the Agreement and feasibility of the ‘minimum growth path’ and ‘ambitious path’. The data in this report were provided by the energy companies and the Dutch Biomass Certification Foundation, DBC. The energy companies supplied confidential detailed data at customer level. Under competition rules, in this report these data have been reported in aggregated form and for the same reason qualitative phrasing has sometimes been used (e.g. ‘the vast majority’) rather than exact figures.

Use of biomass
In 2019 a total of 826,242 metric tonnes of biomass was used in the Netherlands for direct and indirect co-firing. This is five times as much as in 2018 and translates to approximately 16 PJ of energy from biomass.[1] In 2019 97% of the biomass burned was in the form of wood pellets. Of all the biomass used for direct and indirect co-firing in 2019, 60% by mass was of biogenic residues and waste flows (Category 5), 38% woody biomass from Forestry Management Units 500 ha (Category 1). Although the vast majority was from Europe, some of the directly and indirectly co-fired biomass came from other parts of the world.

Statutory sustainability criteria
There is a difference of opinion among the parties to the Agreement regarding compliance with the statutory sustainability criteria. In this report CE Delft has assessed compliance with the terms as set out in the Agreement. When it comes to the statutory sustainability criteria, the check was against the sustainability criteria laid down in Dutch law and quoted in the RVO review of compliance with these criteria rather than with the sustainability criteria cited in the Agreement. While there have been new insights and new decisions since the Agreement was concluded, these were not taken on board in the compliance check

In 2019 there was almost complete compliance with the criteria in the Agreement. With respect to ‘RVO compliance’ we found only 87% compliance with regard to carbon and land-use change and sustainable forestry. This percentage is for the absolute volume of Category 1 and 2 biomass, i.e. 40% of the total. This conclusion does not imply that the remaining 13% is not sustainable, though. Over half this 13% consisted of FSC-certified biomass, but this has not yet been formally approved, as the countries of origin do not yet feature on the FSC-V5 list of countries. The 60% biomass from biogenic residues and waste flows (Category 5) meets the sustainability criteria.

[1] This is the input value and our own rough estimate, with some values assumed.