UNECE: Wood a primary source of renewable energy in Europe

Wood is a primary source of renewable energy, accounting for 3.5% of the total primary energy supply and 38.2% of the renewable energy supply in Europe. Woody biomass is used in up to 23% of the primary energy demands in Finland and Sweden; 16% in Estonia and Austria; over half in the Nordic and Baltic states as well as in Armenia, Republic of Moldova, Serbia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Luxembourg. Around 42% of the total mobilised woody biomass supply is used for energy purposes.

Sources of wood energy

Co-products and residues from the forest-based industries—including wood pellets, briquettes and charcoal—contribute 62% of the wood fibres for energy generation. 31% of the wood fibres for energy generation derive directly from woody biomass from forests and wooded areas outside forests. However, the proportion varies among countries with Armenia, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia and Czech Republic relying heavily (60% or more) on direct supplies (such as firewood) of wood fibres whereas countries such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, Austria and Finland rely mainly (60% or more) on wood supply from indirect sources such as co-products.

The United States (48%), Sweden (42%), Finland (41%) and Canada (29%) have large shares of energy generated from black liquor reflecting the relative importance of the pulp and paper industries in the forest sector for the generation of wood energy. Overall, recovered waste wood constitutes a minor category contributing 4.5% of wood energy. It is mainly consumed in power applications and waste to energy plants.

Uses of wood energy

49% of wood energy is consumed by industry while 34% is consumed by final consumers. Forest-based industries account for 75% of industrial use and households account for 93% of final consumption. The highest shares of industrial use are in Canada, the United States, Ireland, Sweden and Finland. The forest products industry typically consumes energy generated from the solid and liquid co-products of its manufacturing processes. Countries with important forest industries, such as Finland, Sweden, Canada and the United States therefore have a higher share of industrial consumption. Residential use, mainly dependent on primary solid biomass sources, is prevalent in most countries except Canada, Cyprus and Iceland where mainly wood charcoal is used for energy generation in the residential sector.

The power and heat sector is the most important consumer of wood energy in Denmark, Netherlands and the United Kingdom, and has relatively large shares in Estonia, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Austria and Ireland.

Consumption per capita of wood pellets in 2013 increased 144% compared to 2007.