The Biomethane Industrial Partnership hosted the policy session “From waste to renewable energy: biomethane and renewable energy communities” at EUSEW 2024

Brussels, 12th of June. Today the Biomethane Industrial Partnership (BIP), together with the Directorate-General for Energy (DG ENER), the European Biogas Association (EBA) and the European Renewable Gas Registry (ERGaR), hosted the policy session “From waste to renewable energy: biomethane and renewable energy communities” during the European Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) 2024.

Held at the European Commission’s Charlemagne building, the session was successfully attended by around 500 participants, drawing a diverse audience from across the energy sector, including representatives from companies, citizens, public authorities and academia. The session provided a platform to discuss the opportunities and challenges of integrating biomethane into energy communities.

Key speakers included Biljana Kulisic, Policy Officer at DG ENER, who highlighted the European Commission’s initiatives in the energy sector, emphasising the role of biomethane in transportation, heating, cooling, and various industries. She highlighted diverse Member State approaches, and the opportunities of integrating biomethane production into local communities by, for instance, combining it with wastewater treatment plants at municipal level. She also stressed biomethane’s collaborative nature in both rural and urban settings. Kulisic noted biomethane’s potential contribution to the EU’s 2030 renewable energy target of 42.5%, alongside its benefits like reducing greenhouse gas emissions, producing digestate, and offering cost-effective waste management solutions. She said: “We all share responsibility for reducing GHG emissions. Everybody should contribute to building sustainable communities and biomethane can play a vital role in achieving this.”  

Miriam Roeder, Associate Professorial Research Fellow at Aston University, emphasised the importance of viewing academic research as intended for the communities. She highlighted the critical connection of the sector to agriculture, noting that while energy often dominates discussions, for farmers, it’s about more than just energy. Farmers need to be actively involved in the innovation process and benefit from the advancements in the field. She observed: “There are many solutions available today, but we must engage people and provide platforms for sharing knowledge and best practices.” 

Josh Roberts, Senior Policy Advisor at REScoop.eu, observed that biomethane energy communities represent a new frontier that demands thorough exploration. While acknowledging the increasing interest of local communities in this sector, he also highlighted the barriers posed to the citizens by the costs and the complexity of biomethane projects. He stated: “If you are interested in learning more about how energy communities engage in the bioenergy sector there is a European Project that you can check: the BEcoop project.” 

Giulia Cancian, Secretary General at European Biogas Association, underscored the necessity for substantial efforts in integrating biomethane within energy communities, pointing out all the environmental, social and economic advantages, including the possibility of leveraging the existing gas grid infrastructure, managing wastes and supporting a sustainable agriculture, whose added value outweighs the direct costs. She provided insights into the potential of biomethane production volumes by 2040, which could cover a substantial share of the sustainable energy demand, way beyond the needs of the hard-to-abate sectors. She mentioned: “Sustainability is paramount. With biomethane we’re discussing something that extends far beyond energy and can greatly scale if the right conditions are in place.” 

Nevin Alija, Member of the Global Future Energy Leaders and Climate Pact Ambassador, underscored the importance of meaningful community engagement, emphasising that the decisions made by current generations will shape the future. She highlighted the necessity of involving citizens, alongside large corporations, in the decision-making process. Alija also noted that communities consider various factors, such as digestate management, in addition to energy. She pointed out the significant gaps in understanding between EU institutions and local communities on this topic. Consequently, awareness should be raised about the co-benefits of biomethane through community education, rather than solely adopting a business-oriented approach. She stated: “Solutions should not all look the same and everybody should be an active participant in driving change, but it is crucial to have more support from the policy perspective.” 

Pierre Duvieusart, Board member of Gas Infrastructure Europe, offered valuable insights into the current European gas infrastructure, emphasising its pivotal role in accelerating energy decarbonisation through the rapid development of the biomethane sector. He said: “The potential is substantial, second-generation biomethane from waste presents a significant opportunity for Europe.” 

Interactive surveys gave the opportunity to the public to express their opinion on measures that could encourage community support for a biomethane project, revealing that respondents would favor a project that can be integrated into local waste management systems, and that support business models based on community co-ownership of the plant.

The session highlighted the diverse benefits of integrating biomethane, from fostering economic growth to delivering environmental benefits and promoting energy security. It was underlined that mobilising all stakeholders —from local communities to waste handlers, biogas producers, and farmers— is crucial to establish robust supply chains for the development of sustainable biomethane.

 

Check out the photos of the event!