Space for energy crops : assessing the potential contribution to Europe's energy future
The use of land for further energy production in the EU has been the subject of considerable debate. Without much discussion of the evidence in this difficult area, there seems to be a perception that a considerable extent of currently underused land on European farms could be mobilised quickly to produce biomass from dedicated energy crops. These assumptions belie the complex and dynamic pattern of land use in the EU that is important to recognise when understanding land use statistics and making decisions about Europe’s future energy mix. This study explores the scope for additional production of energy crops in Europe (excluding forests), the possible nature and scale of any ‘spare’ land and some of the sustainability issues associated with increasing output. The areas of land identified by this research could make an important, albeit very modest contribution, to final EU sectoral energy consumption, but whether or not this land could or should be mobilised for energy production remains questionable. Overall there are many questions that remain to be answered, hampered in part by the lack of up to date and specific data on this subject at the EU level.