The Importance of Wood as a Renewable Energy Resource

by Shannon O’Neill

The importance of wood as a renewable energy resource has often been solely associated with developing countries. However, Aguilar (2015) stresses the importance of wood in developed nation’s energy markets, specifically in the growing trend of mandated transitions to more renewable energy resources. In the United States alone, wood energy provides 25 percent of renewable energy consumption, which is greater than both wind and solar energy. As wood energy is often overlooked, he highlights the importance of recognizing this valuable and complex resource.

The EU has almost doubled its wood energy consumption since 1990 largely due to the “20-20-20 by 2020” mandate, which states that 20 percent of the energy in participating countries must come from a renewable energy source, along with a 20 percent increase in energy efficient and a 20 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emission, all by the year 2020. Because of this, the EU is also expected to double its demand for wood energy within the next 20 years and will depend heavily on imports from other countries, such as the United States and Canada, to acquire such resources. Additionally, wood energy is accepted under many renewable portfolio standards that have been implemented in the United States. These factors display the importance of understand the wood energy market, as it is likely to boom in upcoming years.

One reason why wood energy is likely to boom is due to the relatively easy transition to wood energy. Wood has become a worldwide market, as seen with the growing demand for imports to the EU as mentioned above. This has been facilitated by the “pelletization” of wood, which allows the energy found in wood fuels to be condensed, creating a more cost-effective way to transport wood. Additionally, altering power plants for wood energy is a relatively small investment, especially as wood is very price-competitive to other fuel sources.

As more developed nations switch to renewable energy resources, it is very likely that wood energy will be a prominent choice due to the relatively easy transition. It is important to recognize this, as many interests are involved regarding wood energy such as land management, energy production, and environmental objectives, all of which need to be considered. Without recognizing the pivotal point wood energy plays in the developed nations’ economies and with many players involved, it is likely that management will not be carried out effectively, and therefore limit the capability that wood energy has to provide to the energy market.

Aguilar, F., 2015. Wood Energy in Developed Economies: An Overlooked Renewable. Resources for the Future 188, 22-27.



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