Peat has been used as a form of energy for at least 2000 years. Historically, it was used as an alternative to firewood for cooking and heating in rural areas. In particular in Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Finland and the Baltic countries. More recently, energy peat has been used as fuel for electricity and heat generation, and directly as a source of heat for industrial, residential and other purposes.
Currently, there are over hundred energy plants in Europe that are using energy peat or a combination of energy peat and other wood-based fuels. In addition, energy peat is used in hundreds of medium sized and small areal heating centrals as well as boilers in farms and households.
According to the World Energy Council, the total production area for energy peat in the EU amounts to 1 750 km2 (0.34% of the total peatland area). The total annual use of fuel peat has amounted to 12 million delivered tonnes of peat (35 terawatthours) during recent years.
The benefits of peat as a local energy source
Peat produced locally can improve energy security. A study conducted by an independent research organisation (VTT Technical Research Center) reveals that fuel peat is an important indigenous energy source that provides household heating to almost 2 million European citizens. As a local fuel, it plays an important role in the decentralized and diversified energy system.
Energy peat can be used as an efficient co-fuel to wood based fuels. It has been found that the chemical properties of wood fuel alone may cause certain problems in boilers. Burning peat together with wood helps to control the combustion process and reduce corrosion.
Energy peat supports trade balances by decreasing the dependence on imported fuels and electricity.
Energy peat can create jobs, provide income opportunities and welfare to local communities. In addition, the energy peat industry contributes to crucial infrastructure, such as local roads, that benefits local communities.
Four forms of fuel peat
As a fuel, peat can be used in four forms:
1. Sod peat - slabs of peat, cut by hand or by machine, and dried in the air; mostly used as a household fuel.
2. Milled peat - granulated peat, produced on a large scale by special machines; used either as a power station fuel or as raw material for briquettes
3. Peat briquettes - small blocks of dried, highly compressed peat; used mainly as a household fuel and sometimes in older power plants to replace coal
4. Peat pellets – used in areal heating centrals and farms
“Peat provides an important source of heat and power. As a local fuel, it plays a key role in the decentralised and
diversified energy system, providing employment and securing energy supply.”
Vesa Tempakka, Chair of the EPE,
CEO of Vapo Oy