Plant biomass and agricultural residues are a versatile source of energy that has been used for a long time. They are either used for direct combustion or fermentation or they are converted into other forms of energy, which in turn provide electricity, heat and fuels. Important raw materials for the use of bioenergy are energy crops, agricultural residues and organic waste, wood from forests and short rotation forestry as well as green waste.

Biomass - a storable energy source

Unlike wind and solar energy, biomass is a storable energy source that can be used whenever needed. Thus, it provides a valuable addition to fluctuating types of renewable energy technologies. Energy from biomass, in particular large-scale cultivation of energy crops, can have serious impacts on nature and landscape. Land use change, such as the decline of grassland in favor of growing corn in monoculture reinforces the decline of biodiversity within the agricultural landscape, while fertilizers, pesticides and fermentation residues accelerate risks to soil and groundwater. The increased use of wood as an energy source raises the pressure on forest ecosystems and constitutes a growing obstacle to natural forest development.

Sustainability criteria

To make the cultivation and use of biomass as an energy source more compatible with nature and the environment, there is a need for strict sustainability criteria. The funding under the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) should be designed in a way that prevents a further expansion of areas for conventional energy crops such as corn. Instead, the potential of manure and other waste materials should be used more consistently. Integrated farming systems with benefits for climate and nature should be encouraged.