Biomass is more cost-effective for heating than fossil fuels
There are entrepreneurs in Serbia who are considering the option to transform the energy system in their facilities towards cogeneration, but there are difficulties in securing a long-term fuel supply, Nataša Pavićević Bajić, new president of the National Association for Biomass – Serbio, told Balkan Green Energy News. Other challenges, in her words, are in the selection of appropriate technology and the procedures, while for the utilization of the renewable energy source the market needs to develop first.
„Economic entities which are switching to biomass need to be guaranteed a continuous and sufficient quantity, and the issue of storage needs to be solved, namely logistical and trade centres are needed. Right at this moment, Serbio is intensively working on BioRES project, which is aimed at establishing more such centres in the territory of Serbia,“ she told us in an interview. The former secretary for energy and minerals in the government of the country’s province of Vojvodina, and also an award-winning manager, Pavićević Bajić said that, after the legal frame for power purchases from producers of renewable energy was completed, the biomass sector still needs additional rules. They concern emissions restrictions, incentives for the production of energy for heating, measures which would boost biofuel consumption, and regulations for the standardization of biofuels and heating devices.
All relevant data point to biomass’s huge potential in Serbia and its surroundings, meaning that we are falling short despite the opportunity for development and environmental protection. How many local units with boilers, chiefly among public institutions, are switching to the fuel?
It is very difficult to name individual district heating facilities and public institutions which are transferring to biofuel, however there are many entities interested and the trend is accelerating. For instance, almost all public institutions in Prijepolje, meaning four or five buildings, switched to pellets. The situation is similar with care homes for senior citizens, but also other facilities, like schools and hospitals. At this moment, twenty or so systems for central heating in Serbia are at different stages of project development, aiming to change fossil fuels for biomass. Some municipalities, like Bajina Bašta and Mali Zvornik, may get installed biomass solutions by the end of the season.
Municipal district heating plants, relatively big systems, are in chronic struggle with debt and they are burdening local authorities. Can a switch in the area of energy source change the situation?
Definitely yes. Operational costs of heating on biomass are lower than heating on fossil fuels. Besides, investment expenses can be covered either through favourable loans which are available, or the investment can be secured through public–private partnership.
Which investors have clear cost effectiveness in calculations for these solutions in new projects in agriculture, industrial production or other areas?
The use of biomass as fuel can enable significant savings for any enterprise for heating expenses and thus help it become more competitive. Among industrial users we already have a trend of switching or planning to switch from natural gas to biomass.
Which organizations in the region does the National Association for Biomass cooperate well? What are the activities and what is communication like in European and global levels?
First and foremost, there are the World Biomass Association (WBA) and the European Biomass Association (Aebiom). Within the Horizon 2020 – BioRES project, which our association is implementing, we cooperate with GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) and other partners from Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Croatia and Finland, while we are in contact also with similar organizations in the region.
A large share of activities in biomass depends on the wood and forest industry, which has been decimated in these areas. At the same time, forests are very neglected and there is a heap of obstacles on the road towards sustainable and profitable management. Which solutions do you suggest to regulators and lawmakers?
You need to know that, in the current situation for forestry in Serbia, an important challenge is that planned felling is below potential, and that even those plans aren’t executed. Last year Serbio was involved in consultations regarding the latest amendments to the Law on Forests.
Which examples of progress in this sector are you aware of from other Balkan countries?
One of the good examples is the development of wood chip production in Croatia. In order to improve utilization of forest biomass as much as possible and to achieve economic benefit for public forest management company Hrvatske šume, commerce firm Šumska biomasa d.o.o. was founded with the primary responsibility to organize the wood chip market and the collection of forest biomass. The concept of the development of biomass heating plants in Bosnia and Herzegovina is also interesting.
Can small farmers also benefit from the collection of residues and supplying biomass facilities with fuel?
Certainly. The best example is Denmark, where farmers have the opportunity to profit significantly from selling straw, and the average price of heating energy for consumers is EUR 50 to EUR 60 per megawatt-hour. In some towns in Vojvodina where gas is used as fuel, the price is above EUR 100 per megawatt-hour.
Which crops in Serbia are used to the largest extent as biomass?
In the area of agricultural biomass, soy and wheat straw are mostly utilized. Apart from that, even though energy crops haven’t yet become popular, grey willow clones have outstanding productivity in our terrains.
You are organizing an international conference on renewable energy sources. What kind of response do you register and what do you expect from the event?
Yes, Serbio is organizing a big international conference named SEE Energy – Connect & Supply 2016, which will be held on November 15 and 16 in Master congress centre in Novi Sad. Our goal is to bring together all important players in the area of biomass so that we can promote the sector, but also enable networking between prominent companies and international institutions in the sector of renewable energy sources, in order to additionally bolster its development in the region of Southeastern Europe. We hope the conference will have a great turnout, because the adoption of legal regulations in Serbia created more favourable conditions for investment potentials in the energy sector and they should be used. And particularly in the renewables sector there are the most important mechanisms to move towards greater energy efficiency in Serbia and for the struggle with climate change.