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Bioenergy Promotion

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Activities and results of the Task 3.2 – Sustainability certification

Work package 3 - Regional

Jul 01, 2011

This task is led by the German Agency of Renewable Resources (Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V. - FNR) and has basically a three step approach: The first step includes the identification of 11 sustainability initiatives and certification systems for bioenergy used in the Baltic Sea Region. As a second step the underlying criteria covered by those initiatives and certification systems were compared to those criteria developed in the frame of Bioenergy Promotion for the BSR (Task 3.1) and the main differences were identified.

Key findings of those activities have been published in two project reports "Sustainable bioenergy production: Identification and description of sustainability initiatives and certification systems in the BSR" and “Sustainable bioenergy production - Comparative analysis of sustainability initiatives and certification systems”.

In the final step, presently under way, recommendations are being formulated how to improve existing sustainability schemes and certification systems.

Questions related to the transposition and implementation of the mandatory sustainability criteria for biofuels contained in the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) were discussed during a trans-national stakeholder workshop, organised in Berlin in March 2010 in cooperation with the sister project 4Biomass. National strategies and practical examples of the implementation were presented and the workshop provided a platform for an in-depth exchange of opinion and good practices from 15 different countries.


The main (interim) findings can be summarized as follows:

•    Today there are several organisations and initiatives which have developed guidelines and criteria for sustainable bioenergy production and their scope, geographical range and supply chain coverage of the criteria differ widely.

•    Through the RED the development of sustainability criteria particularly for biofuels was accelerated in the last years.

•    In the Baltic Sea Region wood is the most important bioenergy source in most of the countries and forest certification systems have been used for many years with good results.

•    Some sustainability issues, particularly energy efficiency and climate mitigation efficiency are not fully covered in the analysed certification systems.

•    The analysed initiatives also contain criteria, which are not covered by the criteria developed in the project (e.g. legality and human rights)

•    Biodiversity is the only criterion, which is considered in all of the analysed initiatives and certification systems.

•    The requirement of energy efficiency can be found only in five of the initiatives, RSB, ISCC, RSPO, Swan biofuels and BSI. The availability of biomass for energy production is not unlimited, and the more efficient the bioenergy production and use, the more fossil fuels can be replaced with the saved bioenergy and the more GHG emissions can be reduced.

•    GHG emissions are an issue in all initiatives except Swan pellets and FSC.

•    Since wood is the most important bioenergy source in the Baltic Sea Region, it would be appreciated if the forest certification systems, whose scope is wood energy and are used in our region, would consider the reduction of GHG emissions in their criteria.

•    Social aspects and economic issues are not covered by Swan certifications, SEKAB and the RED. Other certification systems include these criteria in their sustainability requirements.

•    The certification systems and initiatives should pay particular attention to the criteria on energy efficiency and GHG reduction. These two issues were only weakly represented under the analysed criteria. Especially the certification systems for woody biomass should consider including these issues as well.


Task 3.2 Supplementary activity: Inquiry of forest owners in Finland on bioenergy certification

A supplementary activity has been carried out by the University of Eastern Finland and the Finnish Forestry Development Centre TAPIO. The main objectives of the study were to find out the opinions of Finnish non-industry private forest owners (NIPFs) towards energy wood market and bioenergy certification issues in Finland and to provide policy level information to the Bioenergy Promotion project in its efforts to promote sustainable bioenergy production in the Baltic Sea Region countries.


The data for the study are based on a mail survey conducted in May 2010 among 400 NIPFs owning forests in North and South Karelia in Finland. Two hundred NIPFs were randomly selected from each of the two regions through a mailing list provided by the regional forestry centres in the two regions. The mail survey yielded 79 complete responses amounting to a 20% response rate.


The results revealed that the majority of the NIPFs considered the present competition between energy wood and pulp wood at a low level. Similarly, the NIPFs did not consider the price of the energy wood as attractive in Finland while almost 90% of them informed that price of energy wood was the most important factor while selling energy wood from their forest estates. Only 6% of the NIPFs were willing to increase harvesting and selling of energy wood from their forest estates in the presence of a stable market for such products in Finland. However, the majority of them (73%) expressed their unwillingness to increase harvesting and selling of energy wood even if there would be a stable market in the future. About 53% of the NIPFs indicated the present low price of energy wood as the most important obstacle in the trade of energy wood. A technical problem such as logistics was indicated by 36% of the NIPFs followed by 2% who considered the legal and administrative problems as the main obstacle.


About 83% of the NIPFs reported their lack of awareness of the Criterion 5 in the PEFC forest certification scheme in Finland, which provided guidelines for harvesting of biomass from forests for bioenergy production. The NIPFs were also asked to select from a list of three options indicating the most appropriate quality of a bioenergy certification scheme should be. About 45% of the NIPFs informed that such scheme should be practical and easy to follow by them; another 38% of the NIPFs suggested that it should improve the market of energy wood; whereas only 17% considered that such scheme should contribute toward protecting biodiversity in the forests. The majority of the NIPFs agreed that bioenergy certification could improve environmental friendly forest management practices (59%) and marketing possibilities of energy wood in Finland (53%). About 68% of the NIPFs expressed their preferences toward the regional private forest owners’ associations to be responsible for providing information on bioenergy certification. Such preferences for the regional forestry centres and research organizations were much lower at 12% and 11% respectively. However, it was the forest industry that was the least preferred by the NIPFs (5%) to disseminate information on bioenergy certification. Personal information letters delivered by private forest owners’ associations emerged as the most preferred method of disseminating information on bioenergy certification to the NIPFs (51%) followed by newspapers and magazines (24%), television (9%), internet (9%) and radio (3%).


The findings from this study could provide important policy information on sustainable bioenergy development in Finland and internationally. Private forestry in Europe and in the BSR countries varies greatly. Nordic countries such as Finland, Sweden, and Norway have long traditions in private forestry where NIPFs play an important role in supplying wood for the forest-based industries. On the other hand, in countries such as Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia private forestry is in the transition phase from public to private. Nevertheless, bioenergy from forests will play an important role to meet many of these countries’ targets under the EU-RED to increase the share of renewables in the total primary energy mix by 2020. Therefore, it will be important to understand the perceptions and attitudes of the NIPFs in Finland and in BSR countries related to supply of energy wood, obstacles they are experiencing in mobilizing energy wood from their forests, and importantly their expectations from bioenergy certification instruments.