Normandy, fertile soil for biomass in France
The development of renewable energies is paramount to reaching the objective of a carbon-neutral society in 2050. Biomass is one of the most promising renewable energy sources. France is ramping up its support to the biomass sector through national and regional actions, especially the ones taken in Normandy.
Biomass in France
Biomass is the first source of renewable energy used in France, and it plays a crucial role in fulfilling the Government’s objectives for sustainable development. Indeed, it is quite a broad term as it describes the energy produced by the combustion of organic material, be it wood, agricultural byproducts, or industrial residues. In 2019, it represented more than 50% of renewable energy production, mostly for heat production. However, one of the upsides of biomass utilization is the creation of local, specialized, and durable jobs, up to 85,000, according to the French energy agency (ADEME). So much so that, one of the most promising biomass sectors is biogas. In other words, biogas is the use of gases emitted by the methanization of organic materials. Thus, it is cleaner energy than combustion. Moreover, it has been a big success in France for heat and electricity generation.
Recognizing the potential and importance of the sector, France launched in 2018 a National Strategy for the mobilization of biomass. It gives objectives per region as to the quantity and type of biomass that should be exploited to meet the rising demand for renewable energy. The plan also points out the next strategic priorities that should follow biomass use. Firstly, the optimization of the agricultural space to collect organic material, the prospection of new combustibles such as algae. Secondly, the improvement of circular economy processes.
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Biomass in Normandy
In 2019, biomass accounted for a small part of Normandy’s electricity and heat production, compared with other renewable sources such as wind power. However, the region has adopted the Normandy Methanization Plan, aiming at supporting the development of new projects in the region through a public aid system. This plan will allow the local authorities to identify, support, and secure the project leaders.
Also, two specific fields are more highly performing in the region than the rest of the country. The first one is the wood and forestry sector and the second is the methanization sector.
- On the one hand, the utilization of wood as biomass is a field in which Normandy is a leading region nationwide. With 3,2 million tons of timber produced every year, the wood and forestry sector employs up to 22,000 people. The two primary clients are residential heating and industrial applications. More than 3,000 local companies have activities linked with wood production and transformation.
- On the other hand, Normandy had 77 methanization units running in 2019, among which the region funds a dozen. Also, national energy companies have bet on Normandy to develop their innovative methanization units. For example, Suez opening its Le Havre site in 2022, a €65 million investment, which will produce heat for residential areas and industrial clients.
The push for biomass exploitation finds echoes in the Nordic
For example, in Denmark, the national energy company, Orsted, has converted 2016 two of its coal plants to biomass exploitations, both in Aarhus and in Avedore, the most significant coal plant in the country. Thereby, the cogeneration process allowed for a massive CO2 emissions reduction.
Of course, Sweden is among the world’s most advanced countries when it comes to biomass exploitation, as roughly half of the residential heating is produced through its use. In addition, Sweden is expanding its use of biomass in sectors like transportation through innovative companies such as SEKAB, a biofuel production leader. Then, the challenges of developing methanization units encourage joint projects between the Nordic countries and Normandy.