Agriculture and forestry are important biomass suppliers, providing raw material, such as agricultural residues, for the production of bioenergy.
Bioenergy is the result of the conversion of biomass resources, such as trees, plants, agricultural/forest residues and urban waste, into energy and energy-carriers including heat, electricity and transport fuels.
As biomass can regrow, it is considered a renewable energy source.
Rural development policy supports the production and use of renewable energy
While the common agricultural policy does not provide direct financial support for the production of biomass for bioenergy, EU rural development policy includes measures aimed at encouraging the production and use of renewable energy. Through their rural development programmes, EU countries can introduce specific measures to support renewable energy - such as investments in renewable energy production or consumption. The promotion of energy efficiency can also be supported.
Bioenergy has key role for EU's climate and energy objectives
Bioenergy also plays a key role in helping the EU meet its climate and energy objectives. With this in mind, the European Commission has proposed new measures designed to ensure the sustainability of bioenergy.
Agricultural biomass subject to environmental standards
EU producers of agricultural biomass, whatever its final use, must respect environmental standards regarding water, soil and air. Farmers receiving direct payments need to comply with the agricultural and environmental standards set out under the cross-compliance system and carry out specific agri-environmental practices favourable to the environment. Moreover, all biofuels and bioliquids consumed in the EU and that are counted towards the EU's binding target have to comply with the sustainability criteria and deliver a minimum greenhouse gas emissions savings, as set out in the renewable energy directive.
Biomass from forests must comply with the principles of sustainable forest management, safeguarding not only the economic but also ecological and social functions of forests.
Biofuels impact on agricultural markets and land use
Biodiesel is produced from vegetable oils and oilseeds, either locally produced or imported; bioethanol is produced mainly from EU cereals and sugarbeet.
The EU has also established rules that minimise the risk of biofuel production on agricultural land leading to the displacement of food or feed crops to previously non-cropland such as grasslands and forests. This process is known as indirect land use change (ILUC).
More information on the medium-term impact of biofuels on agricultural markets and on land use both in the EU and third countries can be found here.