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Promoting the penetration of agrobiomass heating in European rural areas

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - AgroBioHeat (Promoting the penetration of agrobiomass heating in European rural areas)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2020-06-30

The Heating & Cooling (H&C) sector comprises 51 % of final energy consumption and contributes about 27 % of EU carbon emissions; more than 80 % of the consumption in the sector was still based on non-renewable sources in 2017. It is therefore clear that reaching the EU 2030 climate and energy targets as well as the long-term 2050 target for climate neutrality requires an increased focus on the deployment of renewable heating solutions. At the moment, biomass / bioenergy is the main renewable energy source used in the H&C sector (16.9% of the total final energy consumption). Most of the biomass used for H&C applications is wood / forest-derived.

One of the potential solutions for decarbonizing the European H&C sector is connected to the use of agrobiomass. Agrobiomass is a term that can refer to primary crop residues, secondary processing residues or from dedicated, non-food lignocellulosic crops. Agrobiomass has a huge potential in European rural areas and, under the right conditions and with the appropriate choice of technology, can effectively substitute fossil fuels used for heating. A key advantage of agrobiomass is its cost-effectiveness compared to most fossil fuels. In addition, increased mobilization of agrobiomass for hearing can promote rural development through the creation of new jobs, consolidate the European technological leadership in biomass combustion applications, as well as provide a scale-able and sustainable solution for the management of the large quantities of agricultural residues that are generated every year.

However, the utilization of agrobiomass for heating is not straightforward. Promotion of this renewable energy solution has received little to no attention from policy makers, while its deployment requires overcoming several barriers, including perception and organization issues.

The AgroBioHeat H2020 project aims to faciliate the deployment of modern, cost-effective and sustainable agrobiomass heating solutions in rural Europe by overcoming the aforementioned barriers. Most of the AgroBioHeat activities will be implemented in six European countries (Croatia, France, Greece, Romania, Spain, Ukraine) with significant agrobiomass potential, but also with varied conditions in the agricultural and H&C sectors. In order to reach its overall target, AgroBioHeat is structured around eight specific objectives:

1) To support new, emblematic initiatives using agrobiomass for heat in the six targeted coutnries.
2) To raise trust among stakeholders in agrobiomass heating solutions.
3) To provide guidance and recommendations to policy makers at local, regional and national levels to understand and set the instruments that will overcome the barriers for the advancement of the agrobiomass heating.
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4) To influence the review of the Ecodesign Regulation for solid biofuels boilers and to included informed emission limits for agrobiomass boilers.
5) To understand the social acceptance factors and local conditions facilitating the success or hindering the development of agrobiomass heating solutions.
6) To promote changes in the mind-set of the value chain actors and clusters as well as to empower them for the deployment of agrobiomass heating solutions.
7) To enhance the competitiveness position of the European biomass heating solutions manufacturers and installers.
8) To promote the visibility of agrobiomass heating to a large audience, including target and key actors as well as the general public.
"As of June 2020, the AgroBioHeat project consortium has implemented the following actions:

1) Engagement of numerous stakeholders and key actors in the six project multiplications countries have been performed. Through these actions, a number of potential adopters of agrobiomass heating solutions have been identified out of which, some will receive project support for the deployment of their ideas in the 2nd half of the project.
2) More than 125 agrobiomass heating facilities have been identified all over Europe, including several success cases that can serve as prime examples for imitation and replication.
3) A review of the current state-of-the-art on agrobiomass combustion systems and agrobiomass properties has been performed, which is summarized in a series of nine factsheets.
4) The national framework conditions (agrobiomass potential, key policies and legislation) have been documented in the six multiplication countries, as well as on the EU level, that will lead to the formulation of national and European strategic plans for the promotion of agrobiomass heating.
5) An EU-wide online survey, capturing the opinions of more than 3,500 individuals has been performed, shedding light onto the public views on the use of agrobiomass for heating and the perceived drivers and barriers.
6) Various actions aiming to enhance the agrobiomass heating sector visibility: participation in major agricultural / energy fairs, organization of matchmaking events and a very successful work and field visit on the theme of ""using vineyard prunings for heat"" in the municipality of Vilafranca del Penedes, Spain.
7) Participation and organization of various dissemination and communication actions on the project website, social media, conferences, workshops and mass media."
AgroBioHeat is expected to:

- Facilitate the introduction of agrobiomass heating solutions and increase the share of renewable energy in the final energy consumption, especially in the rural heating sector.
- Overcome the perception barriers that limit deployment of new agrobiomass heating projects, while ensuring that proper standards for environmental protection as well as sufficient public engagement are ensured.
- Develop more informed policy on the EU level, in particular as regards the Ecodesign Regulation for solid fuel boilers, and suggest a proper policy framework for promoting the deployment of agrobiomass heating solutions at local, regional and national level.

The successful implementation of the project is expected to have positive impact as regards the following:

- Increased RES production
- New markets for European technological products, e.g. agrobiomass boilers
- Increased turnover for ESCOs and installers
- Positive environmental impact, as regards GHG emission avoidance and avoidance of local air pollution from uncontrolled burning of residues
- Positive social impact, as regards creation of new job, especially in rural areas
- Adoption of new policy recommendations, favoring deployment of these renewable energy solutions.

Some direct impacts of the project are expected to be realized through the support and maturing of new, agrobiomass-based heating initiatives; a snow-ball effect is anticipated by the adoption of the project policy recommendations.