Leader in Renewable Energy
56% of all primary energy used in the European pulp, paper and board industry is biomass based, with the wood by-products providing renewable energy in the form of electricity and steam for the manufacturing process.
The industry is the largest producer and consumer of biomass based energy – 20% of the EU total – thus avoiding the use of non-renewable energy sources such as fossil-based oil, coal or gas. This also means the industry is more carbon efficient. Fossil CO2 emissions per tonne were reduced by 43% per tonne of product compared to 1990.
Over 90% of European mills have installed combined heat and power (CHP) plants, mainly based on biomass and natural gas. Both the energy and the heat that are produced are used in the mills : 95.2% of the electricity used in pulp and paper mills. Combining the production of electricity and heat provides savings in fuel consumption. Mills’ energy consumption has fallen by 4.7% since 2011 (according to the Confederation of European Paper Industries) . 30-35% savings are achieved, compared to separate production of electricity (bought from the national grid) and the production of heat (steam) in separate boilers on site.
Biomass: Paper and Board production or Energy production?
At first glance, burning wood to generate energy for a national grid is an easy solution to meet demand. But it is not efficient or sustainable, as it would lead to pressure on forests and higher costs. Using wood as a raw material for the paper and board industry creates four times more value and retains six times more jobs than the energy sector would by burning wood.
Additionally, if the material for the paper and board industry was significantly diverted to energy conversion, this would have an adverse effect on the industry’s recycling capability, which depends on an input of virgin fibre to maintain strength.
Promoting the use of wood first as a raw material to make products, encouraging the recycling of used products, and recovering energy when recycling is no longer viable, would make a far greater contribution to sustainability.