Wood panels or energy? The country serves both of these things but the growing use of woody biomass for the production of electricity and heat has put them in competition. Burning wood waste is equivalent to removing raw material from the production of wood panels for the furniture industry, pride of Made in Italy and important in terms of turnover and jobs.
The problem is serious to the point of having pushed the wood industries to an action day on 3 October with two hours of downtime, the purchase of an information page on Sole24Ore but above all a request to the Government: to review the incentives for the plants production of biomass energy, excluding or limiting the consumption of recycled wood to encourage its reuse in the production of wood panels.
The question is thick because the numbers involved are important. The wood industry in Italy today employs about 400,000 people and produces a turnover of 27 billion euros. Not everything obviously revolves around the waste wood, but the production of wood panels moves 3 million tons of recycled wood that does not end up in landfills and re-produces value without government incentives.
The point is that of these 3 million tons of wood waste, about one fifth we import from abroad - France and Switzerland above all - with a commercial cost that in 2012 was 390 million euros. The manufacturers fear of wood panels is that the incentives for the production of energy from biomass will increase the imbalance and the costs of raw materials.
According to ENEA data released by the Italian Federation of Energy Producers from Renewable Sources, in 2013 750 thousand tons of wood waste were used to power the current 86 biomass district heating plants in Italy. In this quantity there are not only used wood and sawmill waste, but also waste from cultivation and maintenance of the forest that is not the raw material for the production of wood panels.
For its part, AssoRinnovabili stressed that the incentive for the production of energy from renewable sources is governed by EU rules and that the production of biomass energy exploits a large variety of materials of a heterogeneous nature and which come largely from agriculture and agro-forestry. This supply chain in 2011 created around 10,600 new jobs.
What pollutes the most? In the battle for raw materials there is no shortage of blows affecting the environmental impact of the production of energy from biomass versus the production of wood panels. Panel manufacturers point out that according to a scientific study, burning waste wood has twice the environmental impact of reuse. On the other hand, there is the figure of 330 thousand tons of CO2 saved every year thanks to the production of electricity and heat in cogeneration with alternative district heating systems to fossil fuels.
Therefore? Something will probably change. The appeal of the wood industrialists was accepted and transformed into an amendment to the Collegato Ambiente under discussion in the Chamber. The proposal under discussion is to exclude from the biomass typology, therefore also from the incentives, some typologies of wood waste. The Minister of the Environment Gian Luca Galletti said he was in favor, now it depends on the timing of the administrative machine.