Ireland Tops EU in Biomass Consumption
According to the latest data from the EU’s statistical office Eurostat, Ireland had the highest consumption of biomass among all EU member states last year. The figures reveal that Ireland’s biomass consumption in 2022 was 7.5t per capita, compared to the EU average of 3.2t per capita. This indicates that Ireland has an “extraordinary” livestock sector, as fodder crops and grazed biomass account for 5t per capita. Biomass refers to organic, non-fossil materials of plant or animal origin that are used as raw materials for biofuel production, with wood being the most common and largest source of biomass energy.
While the consumption of biomass remained relatively stable between 2000 and 2022, last year saw a decline in EU consumption of biomass materials to the lowest level since 2015. Eurostat figures show that biomass accounted for nearly a quarter (23%) of the domestic material consumption (DMC) in all EU member states in 2022. Consumption levels varied significantly among countries, with Malta having the lowest consumption at 1.1t per capita, while Denmark and Finland had high consumptions at 7.4t and 6.9t per capita, respectively. Eurostat notes that economies with high biomass consumption are often specialized in timber production, as seen in Finland, or certain livestock production, as in Ireland and Denmark.
The use of biomass as a fuel is considered “carbon neutral” because the carbon dioxide emitted during its combustion was previously absorbed from the atmosphere during the biomass’s life cycle. However, Eurostat highlights several sustainability concerns associated with biomass consumption. Biofuels can be categorized into three types: solid biofuels (e.g., fuelwood, wood residues, wood pellets, animal waste, vegetal material), liquid biofuels (e.g., biogasoline, biodiesel, bio jet kerosene), and biogases produced through anaerobic fermentation and thermal processes.
Meanwhile, the consumption of fossil energy materials in the EU has steadily declined over the past two decades, leading to reduced carbon dioxide emissions, according to Eurostat. However, after a significant drop in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, consumption rebounded in 2021 with a 5% increase compared to 2020, and this upward trend continued in 2022. The consumption of fossil energy materials varied from 1t per person in Latvia to 6.9t per person in Estonia, with the EU average at approximately 2.6t per capita.
It is worth noting that the consumption of biomass and fossil energy materials has significant implications for climate change and sustainability. As Ireland leads the EU in biomass consumption, it is crucial for the country to address any sustainability concerns associated with this practice. Additionally, the EU as a whole must continue its efforts to reduce fossil fuel consumption and transition towards more sustainable energy sources in order to mitigate the impacts of climate change.