A scientific study by the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina has found that waste biomass is likely to be the most sustainable biomass source.
Although looking primarily at Germany, the report states that its findings are likely to be equally true across European Union nations.
The study, which has taken 18 months to produce, looked at the availability and sustainability of various types of biomass in light of European Union targets to increase its use as a transport fuel as well as German ambitions to get 23 per cent of its energy from biomass by 2050, mainly from imports.
However, the report concluded that “with the exception of the use of biogenic waste, the larger scale use of biomass as an energy source is not a real option for countries like Germany”.
In 2010, about 7 per cent of the primary energy used in Germany was derived from biomass and renewable wastes. This was only possible due to biomass imports, and without those, less than 3 per cent of Germany’s primary energy could have been derived from biomass grown in Germany, which were mostly renewable wastes.
The study looked at use of purpose grown energy crops, and the likelihood that these will need to be imported, and found that this is not likely to be a sustainable solution as most of the need for these crops will be to feed a growing world population. The scientists who wrote the report, believe that future increases in crop yields are unlikely to outpace the growth of the world’s population, while there is a risk of deforestation and land erosion from turning over more land to crops.
It also has praise for the production of biogas from domestic waste as a slow, but efficient process. It also recommends the use of pyrolysis to treat low-water content domestic organic waste and direct combustion of higher water content waste.