IEA (2020), Sustainable Bioenergy for Georgia: A Roadmap, IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/sustainable-bioenergy-for-georgia-a-roadmap, License: CC BY 4.0
This section envisions a modern bioenergy industry in Georgia in 2030. It outlines the economic, environmental and social benefits it could deliver, and offers a timeline to 2025 with key actions to achieve this concept by 2030.
In this vision, Georgia has fully integrated biomass into its national energy policy through formalised policies for the use of biomass wastes and residues. Robust implementation of the Forest Code means best-practice sustainable forestry management is widespread, and illegal forest activity is low. Responsibilities for all relevant stakeholders, as outlined in a government-approved national bioenergy strategy, are widely understood, and public procurement focuses on upgraded biomass fuels from sustainable origins.
The country’s modern bioenergy industry produces diverse upgraded biomass fuels of uniform quality using sustainable feedstocks sourced from forestry, agriculture, energy crop plantations and wastes. Thriving national and local businesses produce and supply upgraded fuels such as pellets, wood chips and briquettes to the public and residential sectors, where they are consumed in economical biomass heating systems with verified high efficiency levels. The bioenergy sector supports a range of skilled jobs in fuel upgrading, heating appliance manufacturing, installation and maintenance, and logistics.
The phaseout of basic firewood heating stoves is mostly complete. Several exemplary projects using modern technologies such as biomethane and biomass district heating have been delivered successfully, giving direction to the next phase of bioenergy industry development.
Numerous environmental benefits have been realised. Sustainable forest management has greatly reduced pressure on national forestry resources and prevents deforestation. This in turn ensures the integrity of the natural environment and greatly reduces the risk of floods, forest fires and landslides. Waste management is now sustainable, avoiding environmental impacts on the air, land and water.
Positive social benefits are also in evidence. A far lower share of Georgia’s rural population relies on firewood for their energy needs, and modern biomass stoves provide greater thermal comfort and reduce indoor air pollution, improving health. Upgraded biomass fuel production and supply operations create rural employment. Energy security is also higher, as the full range of domestically produced biomass resources is being maximised. The avoided costs of environmental and health impacts make investments in sustainable biomass supply and modern appliances programmes economically self-sustaining.
To create the conditions necessary to achieve this scenario by 2030, key policies, programmes and initiatives need to be introduced during 2020-25.
Biomass use in Georgia is a crosscutting issue that has implications both within and beyond the energy sector. As the principal fuel used for household heating in rural areas, bioenergy is an important part of Georgia’s energy system. However, there is considerable scope to improve the sustainability of biomass consumption – first by modernising the fuel supply with a diverse set of upgraded biomass fuels from sustainable resources, and second by making all forms of biomass fuel consumption more efficient through the use of better heating and cooking appliances.
As biomass falls under the jurisdiction of multiple agencies, a co-ordinated approach to policymaking, governance and market development is required. Furthermore, to establish a modern bioenergy industry by 2030, biomass use needs to be integrated into wider energy policy at all levels of government. Achieving the vision outlined in this roadmap will therefore require more comprehensive and better-co-ordinated government, private sector and international development agency efforts. Ongoing data collection on household energy consumption is essential for policy development and monitoring.
The Government of Georgia could consider incorporating all the measures needed to modernise biomass resource use into a dedicated national bioenergy strategy. The primary objective of the strategy should not be to raise bioenergy consumption from the current level, but to transition to a modern and sustainable bioenergy industry.
The strategy should outline how to integrate bioenergy into energy policy development, explain how to create the market conditions necessary to modernise the bioenergy industry, and clearly define the responsibilities of all relevant stakeholders. Creating a co-ordinating body with overall responsibility for delivering the strategy could also be considered. This body could report to a supervisory agency that has overall responsibility for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Programmes to scale up sustainable biomass fuel supply volumes and the use of higher-efficiency heating appliances cannot be delivered without an adequate budget. While the GEDF could provide funding, other financing sources may also be needed. International development donor funding will likely be available to support projects to increase biomass use sustainability and reduce indoor air pollution.
There are numerous examples of international best practice in the area of bioenergy that Georgia could replicate with in-kind support. The avoided costs of environmental and health impacts currently incurred from unsuitable biomass use for heating should be factored into equations that assess the cost of policy support to establish a modern bioenergy industry.
Other measures that can substantially facilitate growth of a sustainable bioenergy industry in Georgia can be undertaken at no cost. These include ensuring that biomass wastes and residues are adequately addressed in waste management regulations; refocusing public fuel procurement policies to take fuel sustainability into consideration; and providing forestry residues at a reasonable price to make upgraded fuels more cost-competitive.
As ensuring biomass supply sustainability is a key priority, robust implementation of the updated Forest Code to introduce best-practice sustainable forestry management is vital. The social-cutting policy should be phased out responsibly by 2023 with measures that ensure affordable and sustainable alternatives to fuelwood for the rural population.
Effectuating this transition in a manner that does not increase fuel poverty will be challenging, but it is a policy priority. Georgia’s potential to produce sustainable fuels from wastes and residues should be exploited as a key means to shift away from using firewood in rural areas.
Modernising the consumption of biomass fuels is also fundamental. The single most effective method to improve the sustainability of biomass use in Georgia is to transition to more efficient heating appliances. This should be another key policy priority, and adequate attention should also be given to measures that strengthen the business case for the production of upgraded biomass fuels such as pellets, woodchips and briquettes made from sustainable resources.
It is crucial to capitalise on donor funding and the capacity of the GEDF to support programmes that make efficient heating appliances affordable and that establish upgraded-fuel supply businesses; support could take the form of soft loans or grant chemes. The fact that the household fuel cost savings that can be realised from switching to an efficient stove can pay for the appliance in less than a year means that government support schemes should be financially sustainable. A countrywide rollout of such devices would reduce pressure on Georgia’s forestry resources considerably.