Long-term strategies for sustainable biomass imports in European bioenergy markets

Luc Pelkmans*, Miet Van Dael, Martin Junginger, Uwe R. Fritsche, Rocio Diaz-Chavez, Gert Jan Nabuurs, Ines Del Campo Colmenar, David Sanchez Gonzalez, Dominik Rutz, Rainer Janssen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Projections show that biomass will remain important for reaching future EU renewable energy targets. In addition to using domestic biomass, European bioenergy markets will also partly rely on imports of biomass, in particular in trade-oriented EU member states like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark. There has been a lot of debate on the sustainability of (imported) biomass and how policy should deal with this. In this research, therefore, we defined long-term strategies for sustainable biomass imports in European bioenergy markets. We used the input of different stakeholders in our approach through focus-group discussions and a global survey, focusing on the following aspects: key principles of sustainable biomass trade, risks and opportunities of biomass trade, both for import regions (EU countries) and for sourcing regions, and practical barriers for trade. Overall we conclude that policies should be stable and consistent within a long-term vision. An overall sustainability assurance framework of biomass production and use is key, but should ultimately apply to all end uses of biomass. Furthermore, the mobilization of biomass should be supported, as well as commoditization, considering the large diversity of biomass. Side impacts of biomass use should be monitored. Reducing investors’ risk perception is crucial for future developments in the biobased economy, and a clear policy to phase out fossil fuels, e.g. through a carbon tax, needs to be implemented. The results of this research are of interest for policy makers when deciding on long-term strategies concerning sustainable bioenergy markets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)388-404
Number of pages17
JournalBiofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • biomass
  • energy policy
  • lignocellulosic biomass
  • sustainability
  • trade
  • wood pellets

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