Gas, oil and lignite are widely used in Eastern Europe. The efficient generation of heat and electricity using woody biomass, however, is still in its infancy. The EU Horizon 2020 funded project BioRES – Sustainable Regional Supply Chains for Woody Bioenergy introduces the concept of “Biomass Logistic and Trade Centres” (BLTCs) in Serbia, Croatia and Bulgaria, based on international cooperation with European technology leaders in Germany, Austria and Finland.
BioRES increases market uptake of domestic supply chains for quality-controlled woody bioenergy products, from sustainable forestry and wood residues, by means of developing BLTCs as regional hubs.
BLTCs are regional hubs which link wood supply from forest owners, sawmills and other wood producers with demand from bulk and small buyers. They organise provision, processing and dispatching of woody bioenergy products and often combine these services with heat contracting and maintenance. The focus lies on domestic market uptake with short transport distances. At the initial investment stage, focus may be on marketing and sales. Once the local market reaches critical volumes, allowing for the decreasing cost of investments, these platforms can develop into fully-fledged BLTCs with their own production, storage and logistic facilities. This phased approach reduces the economic risk for investors.
In Slovenia, Austria, Germany and Finland BLTCs of different types, with their own production, storage and logistic facilities, are competitively operating. Serbia, Croatia and Bulgaria are forest rich countries, hence there is potential, but the sector is not very developed as of yet. Of the current sources of renewable energy in the region, biomass is the most significant, with the forestry sector being the main biomass supplier.
BioRES aimed to establish 6-8 new BLTCs in at least 2 out of the 3 countries were it operated. At the end of the project, 9 BLTCs were created of which eight centers with physical infrastructure and one, Kapela in Croatia, a web-based BLTC at the moment.
It is important that woody bioenergy production follows resource efficiency principles. This means extracting more energy from the same material input, as well as avoiding negative environmental effects. This is not currently the case in Serbia, Croatia or Bulgaria, where firewood is used for heating, but mainly burnt in inefficient domestic stoves and fireplaces, which also cause additional hazards, such as particulates in the air. Local and regional governments, forest owners and interested local investors are important key actors in developing local value chains for resource efficient mobilisation of woody bioenergy products from verified sources. In order to use woody bioenergy as a renewable energy source, it needs to be sustainably managed – from the forest through to combustion. In this way the high quality of woody bioenergy products and their long-term availability is guaranteed. This is essential for woody bioenergy to be a climate and eco-friendly energy source of the future.
The main result of the BioRES project is the establishment of nine BLTCs in three countries (Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria), of which one is FSC Chain of Custody certified.
The overall impact of this is that over 30,000 tons of woody bioenergy products have been sold on the local markets. Fossil energy demand for heating has been reduced and approximately 10 500 000 l Heating Oil has been replaced by woody bioenergy which equals 32,865 tons of CO2 equivalent.
Benefits of BLTCs
BLTCs have positive effects on local economy: A total of 149 local actors have been reached, approximately 135 SME participate in the supply chain, 126 new jobs were created in new BTLCs and along the supply chain. BLTCs created additional income and promote entrepreneurship (eg raspberry fruityards in Serbia, heat contracting in Croatia)
Transaction costs, initial investment and time required for establishing a BLTC have been reduced for project developers of BLTCs and their commercial partners. Local authorities supported the establishment and operation of the new BLTCs.
In parallel to the establishment of the BLTCs, BioRES offered continued support in increasing quality assurance and sustainability of biomass. BioRES supported the Gorstak BLTC in Serbia of being certified for all its wood products. In Bulgaria, work is ongoing to get Ahira BLTC ENplus certified for quality of pellets. Support is being given to the BLTC and certification has been brought closer since the BioRES partners have successfully supported the certification of the first testing laboratory for ENplus pellets in Bulgaria. If BLTC Ahira is ENplus certified and all the suppliers are FSC certified, the BLTC may become FSC Chain of Custody (CoC) certified.
BioRES project’s spread
In addition, under the BioRES project thirteen training seminars were organized. Altogether, 453 participants attended these trainings. A critical of a successful BLTC is the quality of interaction with the demand side. BioRES has thus increased its efforts in raising public awareness and increasing consumer information about advantages of woody bioenergy products, regional supply chains and the implementation of biomass logistic and trade centres. BLTC operators prepared and implemented a strategy of reaching out to (potential) consumers and held consumer information days.
All BioRES technical tools and communication material is freely available (Project website: http://bioresproject.eu/), promoted by BioRES partners at international events and introduced into new projects (eg. Interreg Croatia Bosnia or GIZ support to bioenergy in Namibia).
Velimir Šegon, North-West Croatia Regional Energy Agency – REGEA
Frank Mischler, Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit – GIZ