Core principles for National Biomass Strategy presented

Biomass is in demand, but its availability is limited. To make it sustainable, clear rules are needed. The National Biomass Strategy provides key guidelines.

Gläserne Weltkugel in Gras© Adobe Stock / stockWERK

When it comes to using and storing renewable energy, nature is most ingenious: plants containing chlorophyll absorb carbon dioxide and sunlight and turn it into sugar and oxygen. The essential building blocks for life on this planet are mostly substances of organic origin – or biomass for short. We produce them, for example, as arable crops on agricultural land. We use them as food, or we transform them into useful things for everyday use: wood to heat our homes or biofuels to power our cars. In this era of climate change and our fevered search for alternatives to fossil energy and raw materials in the form of coal, oil and gas, biomass has been given ever greater attention. But can it live up to expectations and make an effective contribution to creating a climate-neutral economy and society? And if so, under what conditions, and how can this be implemented? These are three of the key questions for which the National Biomass Strategy seeks to provide answers.

Building up a carbon stockpile

Problem: using biomass also releases harmful carbon dioxide

Since burning biomass also releases carbon dioxide, the goal needs to be to align the production and use of biomass in a way that enables the carbon dioxide stored in it to be retained for as long as possible. To do this, the carbon dioxide needs to be stockpiled. The most effective reservoirs (or „sinks”) for harmful emissions are forests, peatlands, soils and oceans. This has already been taken into account in the Federal Climate Change Act.

Potential of biomass is limited

Using biomass also needs to be reconciled with the requirements for having a stable and affordable food, raw material and energy supply, as well as with protecting biodiversity and the environment. And, in fact, these demands are also growing as we seek to replace fossil energy and raw materials to decarbonise areas that still largely rely on fossil fuels today, such as industry.
So it's going to be a squeeze. The potential of available biomass is limited because producing it requires large areas of land that are then no longer available for other purposes, such as food production or the preservation of natural ecosystems. We therefore need to have a broad-based dialogue on how biomass can be produced and used sustainably.
The National Biomass Strategy is expected to be ready at the end of 2023. In addition to containing the actual strategy and an analysis of potential, it will also include specific proposals and recommendations for measures. These are to ensure that the future production and use of biomass plays an effective part in helping to save the climate.