Zebio: In the fast lane off the beaten track

There are many trees in the Oberberg district. The rural region is proud of its idyllic woods and forests. Yet timber is also a valuable resource for generating bioenergy. To what extent can both interests be reasonably combined? The Oberberg region leads the way.

One dialogue is mobilising a region – and it’s focused on the subject of wood and timber. “How can timber be used sustainably and economically as a source of energy?” is the question at the centre of a Federal Government-funded dialogue project in the district of Oberberg. At the beginning there was a great deal of scepticism, even among the residents. “Almost 90 per cent of the forests in our area are extremely small plots held by private owners,” said Regina Schulte, BioEnergieDialog coordinator. “Our first task was to convince the many forest owners to make their timber available ...”

Engine for progress:

  • development of a regional value-added chain
  • reduction in CO2 emissions
  • sustainable forest management and use of timber
  • greater acceptance of renewable energies

1 of 6

Photo: Zebio e.V.

Wood fuel logistics with residual timber from forests. The use of timber resulting from storm damage could be optimised by the dialogue.

Growing acceptance of bioenergy with the onward march of development and CO2 savings

The initiators have since been able to win over the many private forest owners to their cause by means of discussion meetings and seminars. Between 2012 and 2015, BioEnergieDialog managed to hold more than 100 events, reaching 13,500 participants. Those engaged in the dialogue in the district of Oberberg have initiated a rethink. Acceptance of the use of timber has grown significantly in the last 15 years, and this is illustrated by the development figures. The first biomass plant appeared in the district 15 years ago, and there are now already 41 with a total capacity of 11 megawatts (MW). Wood pellet heating systems are also on trend, as are investments in photovoltaic systems.

CO2 savings amounting to several thousand tonnes (t) are being made. “And the potential is a long way from being exhausted,” says Schulte. “Further measures would enable us to save a further 100,000,000 kWh of fossil fuels and thus approx. 25,000 t of CO2.”

Regional supply network ensures quality

The district of Oberberg not only wanted to think differently, it wanted to act differently, too. This is why it created a regional value-added chain based on the timber energy economy. Business owners founded a working group for logistics which developed the supply structures for wood chip suppliers. Since then, a supply network has guaranteed a reliable supply of this natural fuel. The Oberberg team has also developed a series of quality management processes. A certification mark for wood chips now guarantees the quality of the goods.

Because the Oberberg team brought together all the regional players – from agriculture, forestry and the processing plants to the users – the “backwoods” of Oberberg are now helping to drive the regional economy. Sustainability and efficiency always have the utmost priority and so the general condition of the private and public forests has improved and the annual value and total growth has increased. Accompanying scientific research conducted by the German Biomass Research Centre and Technical University of Cologne has accompanied the introduction of new technologies.

Role model for neighbouring regions

The activities of the Oberberg district are also a role model for its neighbouring regions. The partner regions of Rhein-Erft-Kreis and Westerwald-Sieg have been encouraged by these activities. “We’re advising and helping one another,” adds Schulte.

sustainable timber management in the district of Oberberg project video

Video: KlimaExpo.NRW

Photo: Volker Dick

“The utilisation potential of the Oberberg forests is far from being exhausted. Statistics record a harvest of around 200,000 solid cubic metres of timber with net revenues of up to €9 million. The yield could be twice as large. Especially in the case of hardwood, actual usage lies between 15% and 20%. The regional forestry commission office recommends 40%. ZebiO supports the targets for timber mobilisation.”

Kay Boenig, Bergisches Land Regional Forestry Commission Office and First Chairperson of ZebiO e. V.

Partners and sponsors

  • GTC, Gründer- und TechnologieCentrum Gummersbach GmbH
  • ZebiO e.V./BioEnergieDialog
  • BioTecRheinErft e. V.
  • Landkreis Altenkirchen
  • Landwirtschaftskammer NRW
  • Landesbetrieb Wald & Holz NRW
  • Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft (BMEL)
  • Ministerium für Klimaschutz, Umwelt, Landwirtschaft, Natur- und Verbraucherschutz (MKULNV)