The amount of wood available will not be the issue. Currently, only about 500 million m3 of wood is harvested in Europe, which is substantially less than the growth rate. More than three quarters of this is industrial roundwood for construction, furniture and paper. The rest (120 m3) is firewood, which provides direct heating for about 40 million households. The commercial market for firewood (pellets and regional market chips) is still relatively small; around 20 million tonnes of pellets are produced. Together, these two produce about 60% of all renewable energy in Europe, or about 7% of total energy use (all sectors including transport and industry).
This means there is room for growth, but meeting the entire European energy requirement with wood is not possible, conclude researchers from Wageningen University and Research in The Netherlands. The energy market is just too diverse, using many forms of raw material as input. However, forests can easily cover up to 12% of total European energy consumption without violating the sustainability requirements of national laws or certification schemes such as FSC and PEFC. In times of very scarce energy supplies, they represent an important strategic reserve.
Visit the website of Wageningen University and Research (WUR) for more information.
Image: Ekaterina Kondratova/Shutterstock