Try googling this question: “Which country is the best in the world at dealing with dangerous climate change?”

The answer I got was Denmark. (http://germanwatch.org/en/download/10407.pdf)

Now try googling; “How much bioenergy does Denmark use?”

Ready for the answer? An amazing 12% of the energy used in Denmark comes from bio-matter.

That means wood waste, offcuts, forestry residues and other biomaterials. If one looks just at Denmark’s renewable energy sources, biomatter accounts for almost three quarters of the mix!

And Denmark certainly doesn’t stand out from the crowd as some sort of biomass pioneer. When it comes to implementing strong policies to try to drive national greenhouse gas emission profiles lower, the northern European countries are grabbing bioenergy with both hands.

In Finland bioenergy is 14% of the energy mix. In Norway it is 6%, as it is in Germany. Sweden is at 5%. In Austria it is 4%. This is of the total energy mix don’t forget – not just the share of renewables.

And here in Australia? Here we seem to have a blind spot to bioenergy. Here we struggle to add even 1% to the total national electricity mix.

And yet it should be so simple.

We are the seventh most forested country on the planet and our commercial forests are as heavily regulated and carefully managed as anywhere in the world. Sustainably managed harvesting and processing operations in Australia generate mountains of offcuts and by products every year (until we grow square trees it will be ever thus).

Doesn’t it make sense to use this fuel as an energy or heat source and replace gas or coal? At present because we don’t make use of it for renewable fuel, the biomaterials accumulate into multi-storey piles and rot away in the forest or provide mountains of kindling for mega bushfires.

Cross-bench Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie gets this. She has won many friends in the forest and forest product industries with her common sense approach and her demand that any deal on the Renewable Energy Target include the re-instatement of wood waste (as a byproduct from operations only – not trees on their own) as eligible for inclusion.

By demanding the inclusion of woody waste as a renewable energy source (just the same as wind, tide or solar) she is actually more in tune with global ‘green’ thinking than other parties who claim that renewable energy in Australia must somehow mean something different than it does in the world’s best carbon economy; Denmark.

 

Ross Hampton Chief Executive Officer, Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA)