EBA lays out eight-point plan to harness EU's biogas potential
The European Biogas Association (EBA) published its 2024-2029 manifesto earlier this autumn, laying out an eight-point plan for realising the industry’s potential in line with EU climate objectives.
The EU’s RePowerEU plan, published last year in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, included a target to ramp up production of biomethane, derived from biogas, to 35bn m3 by the end of the decade, up from 3-4bn m3 currently. Biogas production stands at 15bn m3 at present. The goal is aimed at tackling energy sector emissions, while also helping Europe become more energy independent, enabling a future free from Russian natural gas dependence.
EBA and other advocates for biomethane say this target is achievable, with the right policies in place, citing a substantial pipeline of planned and under-development projects. As the association notes in its manifesto, “biogases, including biomethane, are EU-made renewable energy vectors and have the potential to revolutionise our energy system and drive sustainable practices in agriculture and waste management.”
“Because they can adapt to existing infrastructure, they deliver systemic cost efficiency while leading a transformative shift towards a greener and cleaner Europe.”
Harnessing EU’s own energy potential
The EBA estimates that biogas could provide the equivalent of two-thirds of overall gas demand by 2050, given the anticipated reduction in natural gas use. This potential can be unlocked by “encouraging the mapping of EU’s production potential of biogas and biomethane, considering the largely available sustainable feedstocks and the extensive existing EU gas network that can deliver renewable energy to all types of users.”
National strategies and targets should be established for biogases, the EBA stresses, while the administrative burden should be reduced and the EU regulatory framework streamlined. Private sector efforts to deploy new value chains for biogas, such as gasification of organic solid waste and bio-methanation, should also be supported, it states.
Maintaining the lead in clean tech
The EU is already a global leader in biogas and biomethane technologies and equipment manufacturing, which means investment in biogas feeds back into the local communities and economy, the EBA argues. There it proposes setting rules so there is a fair treatment of EU-made biogases in green public procurement of renewable energy. Research funds should be focused on ensuring the market’s update of new technologies such as gasification and innovative biomass pretreatment.
There should also be the accelerated EU-wide deployment of curricula and training programmes for operational staff involved in the value chain for biogases, with synergies with national and local initiatives.
Deploying across sectors
Thirdly, biogases should be considered a decarbonisation option across sectors, from power generation to heating, industry and transport. As such, the EBA calls for there to be incentives for use of biogases in all end-uses, particularly the most energy intensive ones, to maximise efficiency and societal value.
Biogas can de-risk the shift from natural gas to renewable energy and this is a role that must be fostered, while reducing the role of third countries in the EU economy’s energy transition. Research and innovation in enhancing biogas and biomethane production, storage, and end-use technologies should be supported.
A focus on lifecycle emissions
Fourthly, emissions across all sectors and industries should be accounted for fairly, the EBA says. It advocates for creating a comprehensive emissions accounting framework based on a technology-neutral lifecycle approach. The emissions-reducing value of biogas should be recognised from production all the way to utilisation. There must also be drivers for sectors to transition towards biogas.
Don’t waste waste
The EBA also stresses the potential of biogas development to transform waste into valuable resources. This means stimulating the use of biodegradable fraction of waste, agricultural waste, wastewaters and industrial residues to produce biogases and additional co-products. A circular bioeconomy should also be fostered, prioritising low-carbon waste management options, so that waste is recycled rather than combusted. Technological improvements should also be supported to monitor and capture methane emissions from landfills.
Responsible water use
The association also points to how the production of biogases can contribute to responsible water use and storage. Reutilising water in anaerobic digestion plans should be promoted in order to reduce water scarcity. Organic fertilisation should be carried out in combination with sequential cropping to improve water retention, and water usage can be further minimised by combining new irrigation techniques such as drip irrigation with ecological practices of biogas production.
Biogas production results in digestate as a co-product. This can be applied to soil to avoid soil degradation in Europe, the EBA explains, therefore reducing land abandonment and making agriculture more sustainable. Investment in biogas plants in rural areas should be encouraged to spur local economic growth and support a fair standard of living for farmers, the association argues. Digestate should be promoted more as a fertiliser that provides recycled available nutrients that improves soil carbon and tackles land erosion. Smart farming initiatives should be supported, such as regenerative and sustainable soil management and practices, and a strengthened role for rural communities in on-farm circularity.
A single internal biomethane market
Finally, the EBA calls for the EU to develop a true single EU biomethane market by doing away with barriers to trade within and across EU countries. This will enable the sector to better meet energy demand in a cost-effective way.
This will involve implementing a right to access existing gas grids in all member states and harmonising how the low-carbon value of biogas is documented and marketed. Biomethane procurement should be simplified across the bloc, using established tools such as guarantees of origin (GO) and proofs of sustainability (PoS). Barriers to biomethane purchase agreements should also be removed, and they should be promoted as a pathway for industries to decarbonise.