Brussels, 21 June 2002
Biomass will play a crucial roll in the achievement of a 100 per cent sustainable energy supply, the Dutch Minister for economic affairs, Anne-Marie Jorritsma-Lebbink said on 17 June.
Speaking at the 12th European conference on biomass for energy, industry and climate protection in Amsterdam, Ms Jorritsma-Lebbink said that the long term goal is to achieve a 100 per cent sustainable energy supply.
'This will require a transition, and a whole range of international changes: in technology, in the economy, in our institutions and our culture. Biomass will play a crucial role during that transition to a sustainable energy supply,' she said.
The term 'biomass' refers to all material of organic origin that can be used as an energy source or as raw material. It covers a wide range of materials, including wood, crops, plant oils and animal manure. A number of technologies are also used to produce biomass. Solid biomass such as wood can be burned or gasified, whereas liquid biomass like plant oils can be used in an engine or turbine directly. Wet biomass can be converted biologically into a fuel gas.
The transition to biomass is however both international and complex, said Ms Jorritsma-Lebbink. Problems such as the poor ration between volume and energy yield mean that the cooperation and interest of producers, transporters, processors and consumers throughout the entire future biomass chain is necessary, she said. This must be coupled with public acceptability of biomass, she added.
'I am convinced that together, we can resolve these problems. It is important that we continue to exchange information and knowledge. Not just about new technologies, but also about the administrative approach we need to adopt in order to benefit from them,' said the minister. 'With a bit of luck, we are about to witness the return of biomass,' she said.
The benefits of biomass are wide ranging, from contributing to the reduction in CO2 emissions, thus limiting environmental damage, to providing a greater diversity of energy sources. More diversity means more security as countries without their own fossil fuel supply will not have to depend on those that do, some of which are politically unstable.
Ms Jorritsma-Lebbink spoke of her home country, the Netherlands as 'the European front-runner in the move to boost renewable energy,' but added that the country must generate more energy from biomass. 'This can be done in waste incineration plants, in coal-fired power stations, through manure fermentation, through co-fermentation and by adding fuel produced from biomass to petrol,' she said.
In the Netherlands, nearly 15 per cent of households (approximately 900,000) are using renewably generated electricity, and a further 25 per cent are considering switching to this form of energy supply within the year.