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Franz Titschen­bach­er on wood ener­gy as the most impor­tant renew­able ener­gy source

In his role as president of the Austrian Biomass Association, Franz Titschenbacher and his team are committed to promoting biomass in the context of renewable energy and climate change. We asked:

Wood energy is the most important renewable energy source in the EU. What advantages does it offer over other energy sources?

More than half of renewable energy comes from sustainably supplied biomass. The majority of this is heat from wood. This is particularly important for the energy transition, as we need more than half of our energy consumption for heat, for example to heat our houses and flats, and to heat water. The proportion of wood in our energy demand is already respectable – and it can be expanded. After all, more wood grows in Austria’s forests every year than is harvested. Wood fuels are a by-product of wood harvesting and wood processing. In a nutshell: there is enough sustainably available wood on our doorstep. It is a natural store and more cost-effective than its fossil counterparts.

Why does wood energy protect the climate?

Wood energy protects the climate because when it is used to generate energy, it only emits as much CO2 as the tree whose wood we are using absorbed from the atmosphere during its growth. In addition, wood replaces fossil CO2 that is released into the atmosphere when natural gas or oil is burnt. All in all, heating with wood is more than climate-neutral.

Since time immemorial, trees and plants have been converting the energy of sunlight into biomass in a continuous biochemical process. For this process, which we call photosynthesis, the plant takes the CO2 it needs directly from the atmosphere, uses the carbon for growth and releases oxygen again. Wood is therefore nothing but pure stored solar energy. Energy that we can use and deploy as we wish – so with wood, nature already provided us with a perfect energy store thousands of years ago.

What are the general aspects of sustainable wood use?

In our forests, the raw material grows both for furniture, construction timber or paper and as a source of renewable heat. The majority of the forest in Austria is commercial forest and is used for wood production. It takes 80 to 100 or even 200 years for a seed in the forest floor or a young sapling to grow into a harvestable tree. During forest management, diseased, damaged, crooked or thinner trees, which are therefore unsuitable as saw logs, are removed. This wood is an important source of energy wood that would otherwise rot unused. With the use of bioenergy, we are therefore not only protecting the climate, but also the local forest.

In the trilogue negotiations on the Renewable Energy Directive RED III* between the EU Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament, it was decided in spring 2023 to increase the renewable energy target to 42.5 percent by 2030. What does this mean in concrete terms?

The agreement on the Renewable Energy Directive (REDIII) provides investment security for biomass plants and enables the member states to continue to rely on the expansion of wood energy to achieve the target. Agreement was reached on raising the target to 42.5 percent and on stricter sustainability criteria for biomass. These are intended to ensure that only biomass produced in a sustainable manner and in a manner compatible with nature can be promoted and counted towards the achievement of the target.

Where do you see the biggest challenges for the biomass association in the near future?

The biomass sector is optimistic about the future, because an energy transition without bioenergy is unthinkable. The greatest challenges are to be found at EU level, where a multitude of directives threaten the energy transition in connection with the use of bioenergy. Here it is important to convince all those responsible of the urgency of the energy transition and the important contribution of bioenergy with information and argumentation.

Thank you very much!

Franz Titschenbacher
Franz Titschenbacher is President of the Styrian Chamber of Agriculture and the Austrian Biomass Association.

About the ÖBMV:

The Austrian Biomass Association (ÖBMV) is an information, discussion and expert platform on the topic of energy transition, with a focus on the energetic use of biomass. The association promotes the efficient and resource-conserving as well as sustainable use of biomass and strengthens the role of biomass as a renewable energy source in achieving energy and climate policy goals in the current discourse – both nationally and internationally. Its central demands are to bring about a rapid energy transition with concrete targets, ambitious measures to reduce energy consumption and the expansion of renewable, environmentally friendly and regional energy sources.


*Editor’s note: The informal trialogue agreement still has to be formally adopted by the Parliament and the Council and the directive has to be transposed into national law in a further step. Status: June 2023

Kategorie Sustainability


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