Growth of bioenergy production needs governance and research on governance

4.6.2012 at 14:55

Jarmo Kortelainen

International attempts to mitigate climate change have resulted in major changes in energy and natural resource policies. EU is in the forefront and will increase the share of renewable energy up to 20 % until 2020. Member countries will reach their varying targets with different measures; some countries are emphasizing wind energy some others burning of wood. Finland belongs to the latter group and due to our extensive forest resources our objectives for renewable energy are much higher than the objectives of most other member states.

EU regulation puts emphasis on market-driven governance models. In other words, it attempts to enhance methods which generate markets for renewable energy. Member states apply various forms of support mechanisms and in Finland its named “twig paggage”. Political measures focus on generation and maintenance of renewable energy markets. It is evident, however, that they cannot carry out the governance tasks by themselves.

Markets create always either positive or negative externalities which do not cause profits or expenses for the market actors. Instead, they may affect other human actors or ecological processes. Other governance systems are needed to regulate and constrain such externalities. This is what governance of natural resources is about – regulation of resource-based production and its social and ecological externalities.

The growing use of wood for energy has inevitably accelerated the utilization of forests. In practice, this has meant that previously unused branches, crowns, roots and stumps have become valuable items in the markets. The most interesting discussion has concerned the burning and harvesting of tree stumps. It has been argued, for instance, that burning of stumps releases huge amounts of carbon in the air which otherwise would have been stored for decades in the underground wood. The debate has dealt also with the effects of biodiversity, nutrient balance and aesthetics of the forests. In addition, the forestry companies have been concerned about the increasing competition in the wood markets.

Internationally, the research on bionenergy governance is growing gradually. It has mainly focused on the booming palm oil production and its effects on food production and ecology in developing countries. The contradictions pose many challenges for the research on bioenergy governance also in Finland and Europe. The vast majority of academic research has so far studied bioenergy from a technical or economic perspective and sought to promote the use of wood energy. However, we are dealing with very complex processes that require natural and social science research. Now we are trying to respond to this challenge by starting two research projects focusing on bioenergy and its governance, conflicts and stakeholder involvement.



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Jarmo Kortelainen

Jarmo Kortelainen


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