FAQ: Wood pellet demand in Europe

Most Frequently Asked | Wood Biomass to Energy Basics | Sustainability
Forests and Fiber Sourcing | Wood pellet demand in Europe | FAQ Home

Why do European utilities need pellets from America? Why don’t they use wood from European forests?

North America has significantly more forestland than Europe as well as a long history of sustainable forest management and productive commercial forest product industries. The total forest area in the US is within one percent of what it was 100 years ago.[1] During the last 60 years, forest resources have increased by more than 50% in the US and 94% in the Southeast, where Enviva’s operations are based.[2]

Back to top

Is it true that the European environmental regulations would not permit the types of harvesting that your suppliers employ in America?

No. The Best Management Practices our suppliers are required to employ are consistent and legally compliant with the laws and regulations of the US and the policy frameworks and sustainability criteria in the EU.

Back to top

Are the laws and regulations around forestry practices in the US sufficient?

Yes. The wood pellet industry is governed by the same laws and regulations that have successfully governed wood product industries for decades, and have resulted in increasing forest volumes and some of the most robust forests in the world.

Back to top

What is the status of EU sustainability criteria for wood pellets?

EU countries that have biomass power generation follow the sustainability criteria that are mandated in the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) for biofuels. In some cases, such as in the UK, governments have implemented even more stringent sustainability criteria. The EU Commission is expected to issue a sustainability framework for solid biomass this fall that will most likely mirror the strict requirements in the RED.

Back to top

If wood biomass is such a good solution for Europe, why isn’t biomass being adopted on the same scale in the US?

Biomass is being adopted in some parts of the US where supportive renewable energy policies exist. Europe has a cohesive EU-wide policy mandating carbon reduction and encouraging the rapid adoption of renewable energy strategies including biomass.

Back to top

How does it make sense to ship wood pellets all the way across the Atlantic to Europe?

The US has substantially greater forest resources than Europe, making it an ideal area from which to source pellets. Ocean freight is substantially more carbon and energy-efficient on a per ton basis than trucking, which means that shipping long distances makes more sense than trucking over moderate distances. Transporting freight by ocean uses less than 13% of the energy of transporting the same freight by truck. This means that shipping a ton of pellets from the Southeast U.S. to England results in less carbon emissions than trucking that same ton from northern Scotland to England.

Back to top

I’ve heard that recent changes in policy in the United Kingdom are making the future of your industry uncertain. Does this threaten the viability of your business?

No. Industry has been aware of this policy shift since it was released in a UK Government white paper last year. The new policy places a 400MW limit on new build biomass fueled electricity plants only. There is no limit on the conversion of existing coal plants to biomass or on the construction of biomass fueled combined heat and power (CHP) facilities. Demand for sustainably produced biomass fuels is still expected to grow substantially through 2020 as coal fired power facilities attempt to meet regulatory targets and improve the environmental profile of energy generation.

Back to top