Blocking the access to wooden resources through dysfunctional regulation is a considerable loss for the Romanian energy sector. Simple calculations show that the biomass that is excluded through the Government’s measures is the energy equivalent of stopping two nuclear reactors. At the same time, lack of resource in the wood market leads to very high prices for firewood. Consequently, valuable roundwood is being diverted towards the firewood market, which impacts the industrial production of a vital sector of the Romanian economy. The population and the wood industry both pay a heavy toll.
In Romania’s energetic mix, nuclear energy was 11,709 GWh in 2020, or 17% of the total production of energy of the country. To compare only what can be compared, this energy is equivalent to 1,006 ktoe (kiloton of oil equivalent – unit of measure for the energy produced by burning fuel.)
At the same time, in the country 14 million tonnes of biomass were used (including firewood, pellets, briquettes and industrial residue from wood processing), equivalent to 3,652 ktoe.
A simple calculation shows that every 2 million tonnes of biomass are the energy equivalent of the power provided each year by one of Romania’s nuclear reactors.
In our estimation that was made public in the position paper sent to the Environment Ministry, at least 4 million m3 of biomass are blocked from harvesting on small forest properties and vegetation outside the forest fund by the difficult procedures introduced by SUMAL 2.0. This is the equivalent of stopping two nuclear reactors.
Recent measures introduced by Orders of the Minister 1945, 1946 and 1947 impose a retroactive revision of environmental assessments for forest management plans (FMPs) that have been legally approved, who had gone through the legal procedures of environmental assessments 3, 5, or even 9 years ago. Even FMPs approved by the Ministry one month ago must go through the revision, leading to a stop in the forestry works, with the effect of amplifying the artificial deficit of wood mass in the market!
At a time of energy crisis, blocking access to the wooden resource is the equivalent of stopping the Cernavoda reactors. Simultaneously, the artificial wood deficit leads to diverting resource that is essential to the wood processing industry towards firewood and we incur a double jeopardy of energy deprivation and diminishing processing capacities of the wood industry – with worrisome economic and social consequences.
The deficit of biomass for energy severely affects industrial production
As this amount of resource was gone from the wood market, firewood prices exploded. Therefore, roundwood, essential resource for the processing industry, is being diverted to the population’s stoves.
At a price of around 100 Euros/m3, beech roundwood goes straight to the firewood depot. Most of the wood industry companies work at 25-50% of their capacity, and numerous cases are reported of sawmills stopping production completely, unable to honour their contracts.
By perpetuating the blockage of environmental assessments for FMPs, the Government creates artificial deficits on the wood market, with huge impact on the industrial production capacities and the energy resilience of the population when winter is just starting.
While it mandates retroactive revision of legally approved FMPs, who already went through the environmental assessment, in the two years that have passed since the infringement procedure was raised on the forest sector the Environment Ministry did almost nothing to solve the real problem of FMPs which are being applied without an environmental assessment, and has completely ignored the conclusions provided in public debates by representatives of the academia, professional organisations from the entire forest-wood value chain, as well as NGOs.
The Romanian Association of the Wood Industry – Prolemn and the Federation of Forest and Pasture Owners – Nostra Silva proposed a set of measures for breaking free of this crisis. The entire position paper is available here.
- Simplifying the procedures of valorisation on small properties and for vegetation outside the forestry fund – modification of GO 497/2021.
- Supporting by the Ministry of adequate financial measures of the forest-wood sector through the National Strategic Plan 2023-2027, together with compensation measures for those forests introduced in Natura 200 sites, as well as financing forestry fund access, new technology for low impact forestry, and infrastructure for the valorisation of wood materials as shaped wood.
- Notifying the holders of FMPs which didn’t go through the environmental assessment procedure and providing a compliance deadline.
- Modifying MO 1947/2021 and removing the obligation for revising the FMPs for those holders who already went through an environmental assessment procedure.
- The publication by the NAPNA of a GIS map for all Natura 2000 sites, with the protected species and their habitats, as well as unitary conservation measures at the national level for each species and habitat.
- General identification at the national level of forestry works that can have a significant negative impact on the environment and for the new FMPs that include such works to be established a procedure with adequate environmental assessment and report (can be done as an internal regulation).
- Initiating urgent administrative measures for training and increasing the workforce of environmental evaluators specialized on FMPs.
- Training the NAPNA and Environment Protection Agency (EPA) personnel with respect to FMPs environmental assessment. Permanent commissions should be established with regular meetings, not for each FMP.
- Assessing the causes for the blocks in environmental assessments of FMPs who started the procedure in 2020 and taking immediate release measures.
- Establishing an operative group at the Ministry level, together with all stakeholders – representatives of forest owners’ associations, forestry management, wood industry, planning companies, EPA, NAPNA, Forest Guards – which should monitor the implementation of a coherent action plan for streamlining the environmental assessment of forest management plans.
Wood is a renewable resource, and Romania’s forests are growing
According to the latest NFI data, Romania harvests up to 60% of the annual forest growth. The unharvested timber accumulates in the forest. Between the two NFI cycles (2012-2018), the wooden mass on stump grew 133 million m3 and reached 339 m3/ha, more than double the European average. The forested area of Romania grew from less than 6.5 million ha after WWII to almost 7 million ha today.