15 June, Brussels - The EuroPruning project has held a dinner debate in the European Parliament to highlight that the pruning-to-energy value chain is possible, but that policy-makers need to establish a supporting framework and remove current barriers to the use of agricultural residues as an energy resource.
More than 13 million tonnes of agricultural prunings are generated each year in the European Union, but due to a number of barriers, only a marginal percentage is used as solid biofuel. EuroPruning has created new machineries and logistics tools to overcome technical challenges, but found that non-technical barriers, including a lack of policy support, stand in the way of the use of prunings as a biomass resource. “Projects like EuroPruning show that the innovations are there, but that the rules need to catch up”, said Jan Huitema MEP, who opened the event.
Low awareness of the potential of prunings means that they are generally burnt in the field as a waste, or that they are integrated into the soil as an amendment. Policy frameworks and interventions can play a role in changing this by altering the ‘prunings as waste’ mindset amongst farmers and policy-makers. This could be done by recognising the specific characteristics of agrarian wastes in EU regulations, and supporting a more nuanced appreciation of the soil quality requirements of Common Agricultural Policy Cross Compliance, which encourage farmers to integrate prunings into the soil, even when there is no environmental benefit from doing so.
Whilst European level support can set frameworks, regional action is necessary to overcome inherently local barriers. The project argued that Member States should take account of prunings in their National Renewable Energy Action Plans, in order to encourage use in their regions, who can also make use of the Rural Development Pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy to support local business and value chain creation.
“The project has shown that, if the right conditions are in place, the energy use of pruning residues can be technically, environmentally, economically and socially worthwhile,“ said Fernando Sebastián from CIRCE, co-ordinator of the project.
The event, held on 15 June, was co-organised by EuroPruning partner, Greenovate! Europe and the office of Mr. Czesław Adam Siekierski MEP, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee.
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