Boosting innovation in bioenergy
An EU-funded project has helped bioenergy SMEs in six EU countries to become more economically sustainable/profitable and more competitive on the market by supporting them with technical, funding and management guidance, as the EU seeks to meet its climate and energy goals.
© tchara #41362758, source: stock.adobe.com 2019
Bioenergy accounts for 10 % of the total energy mix in the EU and more than 60 % of the EUs renewable energy consumption, making it a key player in helping the EU meet its 2030 and 2050 renewable energy and climate targets.
While the sector is enjoying a near 5 % yearly growth rate, most of the businesses involved are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which can find it difficult to bring their innovative ideas to the market.
Helping to boost market uptake of new biomass concepts, the EU-funded SECURECHAIN project supported 20 promising biomass SMEs across the supply chain.
Increasing bioenergy production will ensure an enhanced security of energy supply, more innovation, growth and jobs not to mention the benefits for the climate, says Patrick Reumerman, senior consultant at BTG Biomass Technology Group in the Netherlands and SECURECHAIN project co-coordinator.
The project selected 20 SMEs working in areas including biomass harvesting, fuel production, energy conversion and recycling. Each one received tailored support in developing business models, analysing working methods, financial assistance and creating funding opportunities.
The SECURECHAIN team offered innovation vouchers to SMEs, which allowed them to take advantage of targeted innovation support and hands-on technical advice for their pilot projects. The project also created regional lead partners to ensure oversight at a regional level and quality-check each project. In addition, regional learning labs were established to provide training to improve the capabilities of SME owners.
SECURECHAIN also carried out life-cycle assessments to evaluate the overall environmental impacts of the SME pilot projects, as well as extra training, support in certification processes, financial risk assessments and advisory services. We facilitated strategic business decisions and new investments into facilities and equipment, says Reumerman.
Avoiding carbon emissions
Overall, SECURECHAIN added 142 000 tonnes per year of biomass to the EU total, producing a total of 2.3 million gigajoules per year of renewable energy, reducing carbon emissions by 40 100 tonnes a year and triggering EUR 10.2 million in investments.
The selected SMEs are based in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Greece and Estonia. We helped these projects have a successful start by optimising their technological design and improving their business model for growth, says fellow project coordinator Uwe Kies.
In Sweden, the project helped four villages replace their oil boilers with new biomass systems as well as expanding the local district heating grid. A separate SECURECHAIN project in Sweden allowed four small communities to abandon fossil fuels entirely in favour of biomass feedstock energy for heating.
In Spain, the project helped upscale biomass pellet production by adding an extra production line for industrial pellets, while in Germany, it helped improve wood recovery for use in biomass facilities from household green waste.
The project also assisted 11 additional SMEs in the process of certification, while other SMEs were involved via training and learning labs.
We found that the business clusters created by SECURECHAIN boosted bioenergy by matching partners in both the supply and innovation chain, says Kies. We also learnt that advice works best when delivered by locally based consultants and that public acceptance through communication and education is very important. Finally, we now believe that communicating lessons learnt from successful and not-so-successful projects across the EU is particularly important to SMEs.