LIFE BIO-BALANCE project

Funded by EU LIFE Programme Climate Governance and Information, the „Balancing solid biomass for climate neutrality in CEE countries” (LIFE BIO-BALANCE) overall objective is to support EU Member States to shift to a low-carbon and resilient economy by ensuring that solid biomass is produced and used sustainably at all levels.

Background

Solid biomass is mainly, but not exclusively forestry biomass harvested for energy production. This will be the main focus of the project as well, but will also include sustainability aspect of non-forestry solid biomass, like agricultural residues. The project design was motivated by multiple negative trends which connected to the energy utilization of solid biomass:

Climate change: Forestry biomass affects the climate positively by sequestering carbon, and negatively by producing carbon emissions when burned. The EU own scientific institution, the Joint Research Centre concluded in its report published this year that only the different type of fine woody debris is better in 20 years perspective in terms of GHG emissions compared to fossil fuels . Also, to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, the strong increase of carbon sequestration is needed. In spite of these, the “Fit for 55” proposal only includes a slightly stronger sustainability criteria, which MSs will need to be transposed. Therefore, stronger national sustainability criteria are needed. This is especially needed for the target countries, where the 2030 climate plans, the National Energy and Climate Plans envisage a higher level of industrial solid biomass use. 

Biodiversity: higher pressure on forests means also higher pressure on biodiversity. As the WWF Living Planet Report stated, by 2020 the population sizes of mammals and birds decreased by almost 70% since 1970 . Since the significant share of the remaining habitat are forests, therefore to prevent and increase their condition would be crucial. Again, the existing and proposed new EU-wide criteria only address the biodiversity issue in a limited scale.

Air pollution: In Hungary, official figures show that in 2017 household-level heating accounted for 63% of PM10 and 87% of PM2.5 pollution, which is associated with the high level of firewood use. Consequently, Bulgaria’s premature deaths attributable to PM2.5, NO2 and O3 exposure per 1 million inhabitants is the highest in CEE countries, with Hungary ranked the third highest and Romania ranked fifth.

Energy poverty: In rural areas, firewood consumption is generally coupled with energy poverty. Regarding the different indicators which capture energy poverty, the target countries are among the most affected member states. For instance, the proportion of inhabitants unable to keep their homes adequately warm in Bulgaria is 34%.

LIFE BIO-BALANCE’s solutions

The project aims to reach the overall objective through three pillars: national level policy advocacy, local level best practises, and replication and transfer. 

National level policy advocacy 
As a framework for the national-level policy work, a multi-stakeholder, cross-sectoral integrated policy approach will be developed, including the following 4 steps:

  1. National biomass panels. Since solid biomass sustainability is a cross-sectoral issue, in order to develop policy recommendations, engaging stakeholders from the power and from the forestry sector is inevitable, but stakeholders dealing with energy efficiency, energy poverty and environmental protection are also highly needed. Therefore, national panels in each country will be established which integrate the different stakeholders. All relevant recommendations will be discussed with the panel members before finalization.
  2. Stronger sustainability criteria. As a next step, based on existing best practises and stakeholder consultations, recommendations will be developed on introducing stronger national sustainability criteria for solid biomass.
  3. Energy modelling. Energy modelling tool developed in the frame of the project will quantify those current and planned energy demand covered by energy from solid biomass which cannot meet with the proposed stronger criteria.
  4. Recommendations for the revision of climate plans. Member States are obliged to revise their 2030 climate plans (NECP) in 2023, and their long-term 2050 climate strategies in 2025. Based on collected best practises from other NECPs and local level best practises, partners with the involvement of the national panels will give recommendations for the government of the three target countries on how to reduce or cover by other low-carbon renewable energy sources the energy consumption which was quantified in step 3.

Local level best practises
Since local issues connected to solid biomass – like the uninsulated building stock, the inefficient use of woody biomass – resulting in air pollution and energy poverty, cannot be addressed by any legislative criteria. Therefore, the project proposes other solutions.

  1. Knowledge Sharing and Action Hubs. Online platforms on local languages will be developed where municipalities, local citizens and businesses can share their practical experiences of how they increased the use of biomass or decreased their energy consumption. Partners will collect best practises with high upscale potentials.
  2. Showcasing local replicable solutions. The CEE region lacks specially tailored solutions which are able to effectively target firewood dependency of energy poor households and communities. In the frame of the project, calls with a budget of EUR 100 thousand will be available in the three target countries for energy poor communicates to showcase local replicable solutions. The maximum 6 funded project concept will be further specified with the help of project partners and experts from the panels. The experiences of these 1-year-long projects will be collected to a guideline.
  3. Municipality toolset. Good practices and experiences from step 1 and 2 will be collected to a toolset for municipalities available in local languages and in English as well.

Replication and transfer

The project seeks to have an impact beyond the target countries and involved municipalities. Therefore, two actions specifically address the replication and transfer of local level outcomes. Online guidelines and webinars will be available on replication portals in local languages and in English also. Also, one EU-level, one regional and three replication conferences will be organised. The expected impacts include that at least 6 other Member States introduce stronger sustainability criteria and included 20 recommended measures in their updated NECPs, and on local level it is expected that by the end of the project at least 250 firewood dependent households have applied best practises thanks to the online hubs.

DISSEMINATION AND PREPARATORY WORK

Throughout the project intensive communication will target the professional stakeholders and the general public (especially firewood users) as well. Planned communication tools include newsletters, infographic, audio-visuals and articles.
The project will take on the interim result of the EUKI-funded „Biomass Sustainability Criteria for Renewable Energy in CEE” (BIOSCREEN CEE) project, which started in September, 2020, and the main outcomes will be country analysis of the current solid biomass market of Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. The further activities are included in the LIFE BIO-BALANCE project.

Administrative information

●    Project coordinator: WWF Hungary
●    Project participants: Energy Agency of Plovdiv, Habitat for Humanity (Hfh) Bulgaria, Hfh Hungary, HfH Romania, WWF Bulgaria, WWF Romania
●    Project duration: 01/07/2021 – 30/06/2024 (36 month)
●    Total budget: EUR 1,52 M, from which EU contribution is EUR 0,83 M (55%)


National level replication materials

  • Guideline on creating Multi Stakeholder panels
  • Guideline on introducing stronger sustainability criteria
  • Training material on SustainBioEnLock tool
  • Guideline on NECP recommendations

Local level replication materials

  • Guideline for local capacity buildings and multi-stakeholder plannings
  • Guideline on best practices for low-income communities
  • Selection of best pracitces

Knowledge sharing and Action Hubs 


Latest news

Subscribe for our newsletter!