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Firewood as a renewable energy source

  • Category
    Ecology and Environment
  • Published
    31st Mar, 2023

Context

According to the European Commission, biomass, which includes firewood, plants and other organic materials, makes up 60% of the EU’s renewable energy source.

About:

  • According to the EU law, as they tend to plant new trees after others have been chopped down, firewood gets the renewable seal of approval.
  • That means member countries can subsidize wood burning, as long as certain sustainable sourcing rules are met.
  • It means that “EU citizens are paying energy companies to burn forests in the midst of a climate and biodiversity crisis.”

What does the renewable energy means?

  • Renewable energy is energy derived from natural sources that are replenished at a higher rate than they are consumed.
  • Sunlight and wind, for example, are such sources that are constantly being replenished.
  • Renewable energy sources are plentiful and all around us.
  • Fossil fuels - coal, oil and gas - on the other hand, are non-renewable resources that take hundreds of millions of years to form.
  • Fossil fuels, when burned to produce energy, cause harmful greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide.

Significance:

  • Generating renewable energy creates far lower emissions than burning fossil fuels.
  • Transitioning from fossil fuels, which currently account for the lion’s share of emissions, to renewable energy is key to addressing the climate crisis.

Argument for using bioenergy:

  • Bioenergy needs to comply with strict sustainability criteria that ensure sourcing and use of biomass for energy does not cause any environmental harm or biodiversity loss.
  • The EU officially counts wood and other biomass as carbon neutral, based on the premise that CO2 emitted through burning will be reabsorbed by more trees in the future.

Argument against Wood burning:

  • But the European Academies Science Advisory Council says scientific study suggests the trend to replace coal with wood pellets as a means of generating electricity actually increases “atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide for substantial periods of time.”
  • A 2019 EASAC report says the time it takes for carbon emissions associated with wood burning to be evened out can range from years to decades or even centuries, depending on conditions

India’s Renewable energy:

  • Today, India is the world's third largest producer of renewable energy, with 40% of its installed electricity capacity coming from non-fossil fuel sources.
  • India has always shown its willingness in leadership to fight climate change.
  • The country’s vision is to achieve Net Zero Emissions by 2070, in addition to attaining the short-term targets which include:
    • Increasing renewables capacity to 500 GW by 2030,
    • Meeting 50% of energy requirements from renewables,
    • Reducing cumulative emissions by one billion tonnes by 2030, and
    • Reducing emissions intensity of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 45% by 2030.
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