Germany to use controversial biomass amid energy crisis

Biomass will be used to meet particularly high energy demands, according to the German government’s so-called “Easter Package”, which aims to use agricultural raw materials for energy production in response to the war in Ukraine. EURACTIV Germany reports. The Easter Package for expanding renewable energies said that the promotion of biomass is to be “more strongly focused on highly flexible peak load power plants”. The new measures were presented by Economic and Climate Minister Robert Habeck on Wednesday (6 April).

By amending the Renewable Energy Sources Act known as EEG, the German government wants to ensure bioenergy is used in situations where demand for energy is particularly high so that basic supplies from less flexible energy sources can be supplemented in the short term. The package also said that “bioenergy should increasingly play to its strengths as a storable energy source that serves the system”. However, the difficulty of storing solar and wind is a major obstacle to the further development of renewable energies.

While this means that biomass will play an important role in the future to offset the weaknesses of other energy sources, a more targeted use is probably also intended to keep the total amount of biomass burned in check. Accordingly, the German government wants to use “the limited resource biomass” in the future specifically “in areas that are difficult to decarbonise, such as transport and industry”.

Energy independence vs food security
“In this way, the best use can be made of valuable and scarce biomass for the overall system,” Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir said in a statement. The plans are a compromise solution to the use of biomass, long seen as controversial yet rendered increasingly necessary due to the energy shortages caused by the Ukraine war.

Those in favour of using biomass as an energy source argue that production must now be ramped up to avoid dependence on Russian gas imports. The European Commission, for instance, has doubled its targets for the expansion of domestic biogas production as part of the “REPowerEU” plan published in early March to make Europe’s energy system more resilient.

Germany’s farmers’ association, the DBV, also favours such an expansion but believes the measures laid out in the Easter package do not go far enough. “Although biogas is more urgently needed for the security of supply than ever before, the EEG proposal slows down agricultural biogas production,” said DBV Secretary General Bernhard Krüsken. According to a statement by the German Bioenergy Association, the government’s draft leaves “the potential of bioenergy (…) to reduce the need for imports of fossil fuels unused”. However, those typically critical of biomass are bending their principles and calling for the energy source to now primarily be used for food production, not for agrofuels. The loss of supplies from Ukraine and Russia and the reduction of arable land are what made them become more flexible.