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Peat provides electricity and heat to local communities across Europe
Jaakko Silpola
Coordinator of the Energy from Peatland Sector Group

Energy peat transparency policy 2014 -2016

Since its inception 10 years ago, EPAGMA members have committed to the highest environmental practices in peat extraction, responsible use of peat as a local energy source and promotion of the unique properties of peat as a growing media constituent in horticultural plant production.

EPAGMA believes that the energy peat industry has made great progress to understand the relationship that energy peat has with environmental standards, climate change, biodiversity, economics and security of supply. In this regard, EPAGMA has already made progress with successful initiatives such as the Strategy for Responsible Peatland Management developed by the International Peat Society (IPS) in consultation with EPAGMA and many other stakeholders and the EPAGMA Code of Practice. We have also conducted studies through independent research centers on critical issues such as the role of energy peat on security of supply in the EU and a Life-Cycle Analysis review of energy peat carbon emissions. We have learned several lessons about the social, economic and environmental sustainability aspects of our industry and we are ready to go beyond the individual member companies’ sustainability initiatives to implement a unified, progressive and solid sustainable agenda for energy peat.

In 2013, EPAGMA decided to make a step forward by launching its sustainability agenda. This agenda has represented a timely opportunity to commit to an open dialogue on peat extraction. The EPAGMA energy members committed to exploring transparency areas and projects, to assess EU level activities in 2014 and report about the outcomes of this exercise in 2015.

Following this commitment, a Transparency Working Group was formed in December 2013 which lead to three brainstorm meetings since December 2013. A draft EPAGMA Energy Peat Transparency Policy (2014-2016) was informally presented during the first EPAGMA Energy Peat site visit in Helsinki (23 -25 July).

In short, the objective of the EPAGMA Energy Peat Transparency Policy (2014-2016) communication is to define guiding principles and set three specific commitments that can be applied by the EPAGMA energy members and monitored and implemented by the end of 2016. The guiding principles will form the basis for further commitments in the coming years. As immediate next steps, EPAGMA will finalise the communication and publicly report on the progress of the implementation in 2015.

The transparency communication is available for download below.

 

The importance of local fuels – Site visit

On 23 and 24 July 2014, EPAGMA, in cooperation with the Finnish Energy Industries, the Finnish Bioenergy Association, Keravan Energia Oy, and Vapo Oy, organised its first Energy Peat Site Visit in and around Helsinki, Finland.

The programme of the site visit offered EPAGMA members and external stakeholders an excellent platform to exchange views and best practises in relation to the production and use of local energy in Europe. The site visit attracted nearly 25 participants who toured and heard presentations from local entrepreneurs and energy specialists.

The agenda included a wood fuel logging site, a peat production site, a visit to the Kerava Combined Heat and Power Plant and a closing dinner featuring a keynote speech from Mrs Päivi Janka, Deputy Director General from the energy department at the Finish Ministry of Employment and the Economy. Participants discussed the efficiency and competitiveness of local fuels and learned about technical and quality aspects of forest and peat fuels.

As an example, participants got to witness how the quality of the run-off water from peat production and its effect on the downstream watercourse is monitored regularly. Participants were shown the water samples, which are taken from the run-off water from peat production areas and from the watercourse downstream of the production area – streams and lakes.

Finally, EPAGMA presented its draft Energy Peat Transparency Communication in which the organisation defines five guiding principles and three specific commitments to be implemented by EPAGMA’s energy peat members by the end of 2016. The Communication was welcomed by participants as a timely step forward in providing an open dialogue on the extraction of peat for energy purposes and the connected issues such as community engagement, site selection, after use and R&D.

EPAGMA would like to thank its partners (Finnish Energy Industries, the Finnish Bioenergy Association, Keravan Energia Oy), the local host (Vapo Oy) and all the participants who made the first edition of the energy peat Site Visit an unbelievable success!

 

Energy Forum

In 2013, EPAGMA’s ‘Energy from Peatland’ Sector Group organised its first forum dedicated to the EU’s 2030 framework for climate and energy policy.

Representatives of the energy peat industry, national energy peat associations, and EU officials met in Brussels on Tuesday 14 May 2013 in order to discuss the role of energy peat and local fuels in the context of the Green Paper 2030 on energy and climate change. During the event, EPAGMA’s Vice-Chairman, Mr. Tomi Yli-Kyyny from VAPO, stated: “Decarbonisation and security of supply should be the two main drivers of the new package. The lesson to be learnt from the 2020 framework is that we should focus more on how to promote indigenous local fuels to keep prices competitive and develop tailor made strategies to reduce emissions. The Lisbon Treaty confirms this approach: each Member State has the right to define what its best for their needs. Let’s empower our local communities and they will make the difference!”

 

Energy peat industry in the European Union

In 2006, EPAGMA commissioned and funded a research report carried out by the Technical Research Centre in Finland (VTT), providing the first comprehensive overview of energy peat production and use in the EU. The study was updated in 2010 to provide an up-to-date overview of the energy peat industry in the European Union.

Focusing on the principal European energy peat producers and consumers, i.e. Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden, the report demonstrates on the one hand how important peat is as a local energy source (ensuring security of supply), and on the other, what social impact it makes in these countries by providing employment.

The results show that in the examined countries almost 2 million people depend on energy generated from peat which covers up to 7% of the primary energy consumption in this region. In Ireland where peat is one of the scarce domestic energy sources and hence included in the fuel mix, peat makes for as much as 8, 5% of the whole electricity sector and in Finland 22% of all fuel used by Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants is peat.

As the study proves, the social impact of peat, in particular in terms of creating jobs, must not be neglected either. The total employment effect of peat production and use is 12000 – 15000 man years, including direct and indirect employment. The social benefits of peat production are mostly visible in rural and remote areas, where peat is sometimes one of the very few sources of jobs and extra income.

The study was updated by VTT in 2010 to give a more accurate overview of the energy peat industry in the European Union. More information about this study can be found here.