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12 April 2010

Biogas: The green gas?

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Biogas has become an attractive alternative source of energy in Europe as the renewable fuel serves several policy priorities, ranging from increased domestic energy production to the reduction of greenhouse gases and more efficient waste treatment

Biogas is a renewable energy source that can be used for heating or electricity production. If compressed, it can also be used to fuel vehicles to replace compressed natural gas.

There is no particular EU policy on biogas, but it is covered by all policies related to renewable energies and bioenergy.

In 2005, the European Commission adopted a Biomass Action Plan, which sought to promote the use of biomass in heating, electricity and transport. It focused predominantly on bioethanol and biodiesel, but mentions the possibility of recovering biogas from animal bi-products. To complement this, the Commission published a strategy for biofuels in 2006.

However, biofuels are most heavily promoted in 2009's Renewables Directive, which put into law the EU's objective of producing 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. This includes a 10% target for renewable energy in transport.

In addition, biogas generated at landfills is governed by waste management policies.

The EU's Waste Framework Directive, revamped in 2008, encourages member states to organise separate collection of bio-waste, which indirectly supports the anaerobic digestion of municipal waste. A Green paper on the management of bio-waste in the EU, published by the Commission in 2008, emphasised the benefits of separate collection that would facilitate biogas production.

Moreover, the EU's 1999 Landfill Directive obliges member states to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste in landfill by 65% by 2016 compared to 1995 levels. The diversion route includes composting and anaerobic digestion.


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