Biomass-energy is the main source of renewable energy in France: it represents more than 55% of the final energy production and thus contributes significantly to reducing our consumption of fossil fuels.
To develop this sector, several support mechanisms have been put in place:
- The energy transition tax
- Energy saving certificates
- “Heat Funds” (Fond de chaleur) -> allowed to finance between 2009 and 2015 700 boilers in the collective and industrial sectors for a total production of 1.2 million toe / year corresponding to a consumption of 5.5 million tons of biomass)
- Tenders for the production of electricity from biomass
Biomass plants are located on local lands where wood resources are underused. But these installation projects can generate conflicts with the inhabitants of the region and opponents’ organization protest against this kind of project.
Generic information about the conflict
The project: Installation of a biomass power plant
Location : Tonnerre (Department : Yonne – Region : Bourgogne-Franche-Comté - France)
Start date of the project: 2011
It’s aims: produce electricity by burning local wood. The electricity thus created (5 MW/year, the equivalent of the annual production of two wind turbines) will be sold to ERDF. According to the community of communes, this project will help create a hundred direct jobs.
Start date of the conflict: 2015
An opponent’s organization (ARPENT : Association pour la Restauration et la Protection de l'Environnement Naturel du Tonnerrois) protest against this project. For its members, this biomass plant would be a disaster for our forests because it would use 60,000 tons of wood each year (100 000 wood stere), in a department where there are already many wood needs. The problem is not the resource, it exists, but rather of its mode of exploitation (it's necessary that the wood costs the cheapest possible). The forest farm machinery caused many damages on forest floor. This exploitation of the forest could have a serious impact on biodiversity. Furthermore, the efficiency of this type of plant is 33% like most plants whether nuclear, coal or other. The remaining 66% are lost, unless the heat is recovered for another use.
The primary function of this type of plant is to produce electricity. It is powered by biomass (solid wood) harvested in the forest within a radius of 50km, milled in chips and which will be transformed into thermal energy by burning it in a boiler. The combustion of wood generates pressurized steam which, through a turbine, will drive an alternator.
Evaluation of the conflict
The main reason why the community stand up against this project are ecological issues. The plant will require approximately 60,000 tons of wood per year, which is the equivalent of 100 to 120,000 stere (cf-Conflict Type). It is estimated that one hectare of local forest will increase its wood mass by about 3 tons per year, but other factors that contribute to the decline of this resource must also be taken :
- climatic variations (storms, heat waves, drought …)
- impact on the estovers
- other companies that come to stock up in the area
- cutting in private woods for personal heating
The exploitation of wood should cover an area of 150 to 200,000 hectares so as not to deplete all the available resources. The communal forests of Tonnerrois represent about 5,000 ha. Throughout its life a tree stores a lot of carbon, which reduces the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. When wood burns to produce electricity, it releases as much CO2 as it has stored throughout its life, so the massive use of wood as energy will therefore have a negative impact on the fight against global warming.
The main stakeholders involved in this project are:
- ARPENT -> environnemental organization [Figure 1] (cf-conflict type)
- local population (inhabitants of Tonnerre) -> who had a piece of forest will not be able to use the amount of wood they want.
- manufacturer of the power plant: its aims it’s to make a maximum profit by selling the electricity and the heat that has been recovered because of the losses generated by the plant.
Figure 1 : ARPENT members distributing leaflets
This project is still relevant despite the years that have passed. The conflict between the environmental organization and investors is very disputed.The main possible cause of these conflicts is the lack of communication between stakeholders. This kind of technology is quite new in France. The inhabitants were not really informed of this conflict and could not express their opinion on the subject. The project owners also sometimes forget about the life environment of the inhabitant and were more focused about the economic profitability.The main elements that prevent the resolution of conflicts is that the two parties involved in the conflict are totally opposed in their ideas. There can not be an agreement between them.
Keywords and identifiers of the conflict
biomass plant,local conflict,protestation, ARPENT, Tonnerre, France
Forêt tonneroise - Site de l'association de l'ARPENT, France (2016).La centrale biomasse en questions. Retrieved February 6th 2017 from http://foret-tonnerroise.fr/spip.php?article67
FranceBleu, France (2016).A Tonnerre, le projet de centrale biomasse ne plait pas à tout le monde. Press release. Retrieved February 6th 2017 from https://www.francebleu.fr/infos/climat-environnement/tonnerre-le-projet-de-centrale-biomasse-ne-plait-pas-tout-le-monde-1454609207
Yonne Lautre, France (2016).Raphaël Darley : Qu’en est-il du projet de centrale électrique au bois de Tonnerre ?. Interview report. Retrieved February 6th 2017 from http://yonnelautre.fr/spip.php?article8358&lang=fr
L'Yonne Republicaine, France (2015). Centrale biomasse : une association du Tonnerrois s'inquiète du projet. Press release. Retrieved February 6th 2017 from https://www.lyonne.fr/tonnerre/economie/environnement/2015/10/23/centrale-biomasse-une-association-du-tonnerrois-s-inquiete-du-projet_11635714.html
DEGEB Bioenergy Portal, Bioenergy conflict database. Web site. Retrieved February 5th 2017 from http://www.debeg.org/en/bioenergy_conflicts_database/:action/view/oid/202