“Woody biomass”, “agricultural biomass”, “energy crops”, “biofuels”, “bioheat”, “biopower”, “solid biomass”, “bioliquids” or “biogas” are all different subcategories of the bioenergy sector. As technology progresses, new feedstocks and appliances regularly appear, enriching the field of bioenergy with neologisms. This is why it is essential to set proper and simple definitions before trying to understand the place and the role of bioenergy in Europe.
In short, bioenergy refers to all types of energy derived from the conversion of natural, biological sources available on a renewable basis.
Within our immediate environment lies an abundant source of organic materials such as plants, trees, algae, or organic wastes, which all can be valuable fuels as soon as a technology makes it possible to efficiently extract all of its energy potential. Bioenergy players traditionally refer to biomass to describe those usable feedstocks. Biomass currently used in Europe includes wood from forests, agricultural crops and residues, by-products from the wood and agricultural industry, herbaceous and woody energy crops, municipal organic wastes and manure, and could potentially integrate algae and marine biomass in the future.
Some biomass materials may be used directly as fuel, as is the case with traditional firewood that is still widely used worldwide. However, since the oil crisis of the 1970s, modern installations have developed to use more and more processed types of biomass: agricultural crops are turned into biofuels, manure into biogas, or wood residues into pellets.
Bioenergy is the only renewable energy source capable of providing the three main sources of energy needed both by individuals and businesses: bio-heat/cooling, bio-power and bio-fuel.