Poland seeks EU support for biomass from agriculture

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Poland is an ardent supporter of the use of agricultural biomass, which it intends to promote in the forthcoming negotiations on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and in the context of cohesion policy. At a conference, on 16 July in Sopot, Poland, experts from the 27 member states held an initial exchange of views on this matter in preparation for the Agriculture Council, on 19 July in Brussels. Their discussions showed that not all member states share Poland’s point of view.

The Poles see a range of opportunities in support for the energy use of biomass (biogas, biofuels, etc): the development of rural areas, important extra income for farmers and synergy with the European Union’s energy and climate objectives.

Polish Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki pointed out that this issue should be tied to the debate on renewable energy in the broad sense. “We are going to do what we can to include the issue of biomass in the strategic objectives for 2020, both in the CAP and in cohesion policy,” he said at the end of the meeting. “I think it will be important to mention the diversification of farmers’ income, particularly through biomass, in the conclusions of the Polish Presidency’s debates on CAP reform.”

Poland is clearly asserting its will to promote the financing of renewable energy at rural level in the framework of the CAP’s second pillar (rural development). According to Sawicki, such financial support is needed at both the investment stage – at the expense of taxpayers – and during exploitation – at the expense of consumers. The minister stressed the importance of exchanging good practices and the need to take inspiration from pioneers in this area, like Austria.

For Warsaw, the exploitation of biomass must take place at local level, taking its social acceptability into account. “We think that renewable energy in general must not be developed on the model of the large energy industries. Small local investors should be given precedence,” said Kazimierz Zmuda, deputy director of the Agricultural Markets Department of Poland’s Agriculture Ministry. “This type of energy should not be exploited in large infrastructures, otherwise it will not be accepted by the population. It would be more useful to promote micro biogas installations, for instance.”

The Poles particularly stress the rational use of these resources and are concerned about experts’ projections of rising imports of biomass in the EU by 2020.

“Today, the large energy industries use methods that are not necessarily rational in terms of CO 2 emissions and climate protection,” explained Sawicki. “If biomass has to be transported over thousands of kilometres, it will take more energy to transport it than the amount of energy it can help produce.” Zmuda expanded on this idea: “The import and even intra-European transport of biomass over more than 50 km is not the right approach. We do not say that import is bad in the absolute, because it should be complementary if available resources are insufficient. However, there are strong legislative constraints on European farmers. Imported biomass must therefore also meet these criteria to keep competition conditions equal. This is obvious for us, but that is not the case for all countries.”

Some member states that import large amounts of agricultural biomass voiced misgivings at this first meeting over any restrictions on imports. Poland wishes to raise this debate at political level and will ask the European Commission to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the transport of biomass over long distances.

Source: europolitics.org

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