Cascading does not have one universal definition, although a common theme is that “material use of wood should be prioritized over energy use of wood”, which forms the basis for this analysis. The paper aims to inform the debate on cascading through an analysis of the terminology around cascading, and a review of how the concept is framed and implemented in policies of the EU and selected Member States. It also discusses potential implications for international bioenergy markets from implementation of the cascading principle.

The authors analyse the consequences of potential implementation of the cascading principle by looking at both historical cases of similar policies and current examples from Europe and North America. The analysis suggests that there are clear risks that implementation of the cascading principle results in complicated legislative processes, especially pertaining to reaching agreement on the types of woody biomass that should be used for materials and be excluded from energy use.

Given the large and growing international trade in both bioenergy and biomaterials, further complications are likely to arise if the cascading principle is enforced only in select EU Member States, or in the EU but not in North America. Without harmonized rules, the efficiency and efficacy of cascading policies could be compromised as market actors focus more on exploiting regulatory loopholes than on improving their performance.

An important first step towards building a future economy based on renewable resources is to define the policy goals; from there, potential measures can be discussed. The measures on “cascading” banner could be part of the policy portfolio, but until cascading has been properly defined and evaluated, it should not be seen as a silver bullet too solve the potential problems of transitioning to a bio-based economy.

Read the paper (external link to IEA)