The biomass industry for power generation is becoming increasingly important in Spain as an alternative to coal. The country’s National Energy and Climate Plan foresees a growth from 2020 to 2030 of 129.69 per cent in the installed power of electricity generation from biomass. Meanwhile, local associations say the industry has an impact on forests and air quality, affecting the health of people who live near power plants.

Published in Público

Within the framework of the European Renewable Energy Directive, Spain’s NECP foresees an increase in the installed power of electricity generation from biomass from 613 MW in 2020 to 1,048 in 2030. Quite a promising outlook for emerging companies that seek to benefit from the institutional push to biomass. Like Forestalia, which has the largest pellet production plant in Spain and has received a loan of 42 million euros from the Council of Europe. Or Greenalia, which received a loan of 50 million euros from the European Investment Bank for the start-up of its biomass plant in Curtis (Galicia). Organizations Petón do Lobo and Biofuel Watch claim the plant does not meet the efficiency requirements of the EIB.

The industry’s plans have raised the following question: is there enough woody biomass to supply the industry? Spain is the third European country for absolute resources of forest biomass, but both the International Institute of Law and Environment and the European Commission warn that the NECP does not include an analysis of the future evolution of the demand and supply of biomass in Spain. To calculate the biomass potential available, the NECP relies on outdated data from 2011.

On the other hand, local associations throughout the country protest against the side effects that burning woody biomass may have on their health. This is the case of Bierzo Aire Limpio Platform, in Cubillos de Sil village, which has raised funds to begin a legal process against a nearby biomass plant owned by Forestalia. Or San Juan del Puerto, whose neighbors demand that the “ash rain” that a plant owned by the biomass company Ence spills on their town stops.

Despite these protests, biomass continues to be included in public renewable energy auctions and in Spain’s long-term plans for decarbonisation.