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Exploring Pathways to Deliver Sustainable Woody Biomass

In response to the growing importance of woody biomass as a renewable energy, we are increasingly working to strengthen the link between sustainable biomass and forest certification. With this in mind, we supported the facilitation of dialogue between the main biomass producer and consumer stakeholders in North America and Europe.

Pinchot 2Europe’s demand for imported wood pellets is growing, and in the next two decades this demand is expected to reach 60 million tons a year – most of which will come from the USA and Canada. There has already been significant growth in this area, with European imports of wood pellets from North America doubling from one million tons in 2009 to over two million tons in 2011.

At the same time, the European Union has been developing sustainability criteria to ensure that any solid biomass used for renewable energy entering Europe is produced sustainably. These criteria will cover imported wood pellets, setting the bar for landowners and pellet manufacturers in the areas of biomass chain of custody, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity conservation and water resources.

With the growing importance of the USA as a producer and exporter of wood pellets, it is vital that pellet producers and purchasers, along with other participants in the production and export supply chains, are aware of these sustainable sourcing requirements.

PEFC and Wood Pellets

PinchotIn response, the 2013 Collaboration Fund supported a Pinchot Institute project to improve the communication and coordination between the relevant stakeholders in Europe and the USA.

Through a two-day workshop held in the US South in November 2013, the Pinchot Institute and project partners brought together over 60 experts and stakeholders to debate related complex sustainability issues. Specifically, the workshop examined the international trade in wood pellets, explored sustainability criteria being developed by European governments and industry, and introduced US forestry practices.

The workshop was concluded with a tour of industrial timberlands certified to SFI’s Forest Management standard, a non-industrial family forest, and the Georgia Biomass LLC pellet mill. The field tour showcased several tools to mitigate environmental risks along the biomass supply chain.

Based on the outcomes of this workshop, the Pinchot Institute produced the report ‘The Transatlantic Trade in Wood for Energy: A Dialogue on Sustainability Standards and Greenhouse Gas Emissions’, which summarizes the major themes and conclusions emerging over the two days. The report will continue to provide recommendations to help with future standards revision and alignment with EU criteria.

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Project partners:

Photos courtesy of Pinchot Institute for Conservation

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