Societal Challenge 3

Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy

The specific objective of the Work Programme Societal Challenge 3, as described in Horizon 2020, is to make the transition to a reliable, sustainable and competitive energy system, in the context of increasingly-scarce resources, growing energy needs and climate change.

Updated on a biannual basis, the Work Programme Societal Challenge 3 details the scope of research topics that are taken as a priority in the specific time frame and lists several Calls for Proposals. Following a competitive process, funding is granted to high-quality research projects submitted by pan-European research consortia formed by research organizations and universities in cooperation with the private and public sectors.

Renewable forest resources providing secure, clean and efficient energy for Europe

Europe’s energy strategy calls for a significant increase in the use of renewable resources for the production of power, heat and transport fuels. By 2020, 20% of all energy used in the EU should be of renewable origin. By 2050, the EU aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions from energy production to 80-95% below 1990 levels. 

Biomass-derived energy (bioenergy) represents a large part of the renewable energy in the EU (approximately 60%). Although the share of bioenergy in all renewable energy is not likely to increase, total production volumes will grow significantly. Wood-based energy will be the most significant sub-segment also in the future. Wood-based energy production has the benefit of not competing with food production. Still, it is vital to develop wood-based energy and wood-based high-value products in parallel. The forest-based sector is a prime example of how coexistence can be achieved in a sustainable way. Further improvement of the sophisticated raw material and industrial logistics already in place makes the forest-based sector the most competitive option for bioenergy production in the EU.

The forest-based sector can foster the transition to a low carbon green economy by increasing the output of bioenergy further by:
o    Increasing the supply of biomass;
o    Utilizing by-products of current processes for energy production (sawdust, bark, black liquor, etc.) more efficiently;
o    Fractionating feedstocks for added value and complementary energy products;
o    Improving the efficiency of resource use (energy, water and raw materials);
o    Optimizing life cycle management from product design to end-of-line clean combustion.

The forest-based sector leads the way in industrial combined heat and power production (CHP), using various mill and forest residues as the raw material. Significant amounts of additional biomass from European and global forest-based industry operations can be effectively converted to green electricity, district heating, transport fuels and bioenergy carriers. Integration of the current and future wood-processing industry will offer profitable new business opportunities for all partners in the value chain. Decentralised concepts and operational systems of CHPs as well as biochemical, liquid or gasified fuel technologies contribute both through material and energy efficiency to sustainable development and the overall well-being of societies in urban and rural settlements.

The EU’s SET-Plan (Strategic Energy Technologies) will help to accelerate the development and commercialization of new energy technologies. There are more than 1000 existing sites and more than 500 recovery boilers in forest-based industries, with further capacity to efficiently convert more biomass from agriculture and municipal waste streams to energy.