Increased biomass use good for the climate

Smart use of the Swedish forest is a cornerstone in the transition to a fossil-free economy. More forest raw materials are needed, but there is not enough “green gold.”

Forest growth is outpacing tree felling. But it is not growth that determines how many trees are felled.

“The number of trees felled depends on how mature the forest is,” said Magnus Berg of the Swedish Forest Industries Federation at an IVA seminar.

There is also a lot of mature forest in nature reserves and other protected areas. There is simply not enough forest for all of its uses.

“All of our forest raw materials are already being used. But we could of course use it for other things that we are using it for now.”

Henric Dernegård pointed out that it takes forest owners 70 years to profit from felling. And it is timber that creates the best value chain from a financial perspective.

“Sawn wood is the key. The process produces things that can be used as raw materials for other products,” he said.

According to the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), forest harvesting needs to increase by 20 percent if the climate goals are to be reach by using more biomass.

“But that’s impossible because there is not enough fellable timber. The increased volume would be equivalent to the construction of 100,000 solid wood buildings every year.”

Although we will not be building that many wooden buildings, using the forest is what will benefit the climate the most.

And in order to increase the use of biomass to replace fossil fuels, most of it will have to come from the forest. This point was made by Serina Ahlgren from Rise. But the exact amount of available Swedish biomass depends in part on how it is calculated.

“There are technical, social and economic limitations. There is also the risk of volumes being calculated twice,” she said.

But in terms of energy, it is likely that by 2050 it will be possible to extract around 130 TWh of biomass from the forest and around 20 TWh from agriculture.

Biofuels are one option to reduce our fossil dependence. Ethanol is mainly made from agricultural raw materials. Alarik Sandrup of Agroetanol, maintained that only a little more than 20 percent of the biofuels used in Sweden are produced domestically.

“Biofuel use is increasing rapidly, but Swedish production is not. Political control mechanisms have made it hard for the producers.”

According to Alarik, these mechanisms are entirely focused on consumption and not on production. As a result, a large proportion of the ethanol that we use is produced in the USA.

“But Sweden has enormous potential and a world-class process industry,” he said.

Contact information

Karin Byman
Director Climate, Resources and Energy
Phone +46 70-574 70 72