Attempts are being made to shift the focus of energy production globally more and more towards renewable energy sources. In Finland, the use of renewable energy increased by 1 % in 2019 compared to 2018, and it covered 38 % of total energy consumption. The use of wood fuels continued to grow and their use in 2019 reached a record level. Forest bioenergy plays a major role in Finnish energy production, but actors in the sector need new information and tools to support their work. The outputs of the soon-to-be-completed Baltic ForBio project will bring concrete help to industry players.
Bioenergy is produced with about 20 million cubic meters of solid wood fuels
In 2019, heating and power plants consumed slightly over 20 million solid cubic metres of solid wood fuels (see figure). The share of forest chips was 7,5 million m³ (37%) of the total consumption. 90% of raw material for forest chips was small-sized trees and logging residues, the rest being manufactured from stumps and large-sized decayed roundwood. The share of logging residues has increased in recent years. The use of forest chips in energy production has constantly increased with one fifth from 2010.
The combined production of heat and power consumed 63% (4.7 mil. m³) of the total forest chips, while the share of heat production alone was 37% (2.8 mil. m³). The share of forest chips used in heath production has increased in the past 10 years.
The use of wood fuels and especially forest chips has been promoted in Finland since mid-1990’s. Alongside with support to research and innovation activities, investments in new technologies has been subsidized. Harvesting of small sized trees for forest chips has received funding under The Act on the Financing of Sustainable Forestry.
Profitability and the availability of raw materials are key issues
The operational level entrepreneurs need research-based knowledge including technological, economic and environmental aspects influencing the business profitability. The most critical aspects for profitable supply of forest energy biomass are harvesting of small-sized trees, state subsidies in the long term and environmental challenges.
Long term energy industry investments need assessment of forest biomass availability, and in this regard the markets comprise the whole Baltic Sea Region. Domestic machinery manufacturers need information on the size and special characteristics of markets in different parts of the region.
The Baltic ForBio project brings benefits to all parts of the chain, from forest to power plants
Main tools and products of the project are:
- General Handbook on the cost-effective harvest methods including country-specific reviews on the sector
- Forest Energy Atlas, an open-access Internet-based tool for assessing spatially-explicit harvesting potentials of energy wood.
Other useful tools and products available on www.slu.se/balticforbio
- Sector-specific review on the studies and research conducted in the partner countries during the past ten years
- Demonstration sites (31 pcs) available in the partner countries with documented site descriptions before and after energy wood harvest
- Training materials as slide-sets, videos and written publications
What are the project impacts in the longer run?
During the project lifecycle the partner countries can compare the current forest energy situation in the neighboring countries and learn from each other the best practices and prerequisites for a positive development in the sector. The handbook on the cost-effective and sustainable harvest methods gives a broad understanding of the sector in 200 pages. It has been published in six local languages to work effectively for sharing information through national channels. Together with other outputs from the project, such as training materials and Forest Energy Atlas for forest biomass availability assessment, it forms a good basis for the commitment to the development of the sector in the longer run.
Baltic ForBio project is funded by Interreg Baltic Sea Region programme.