Biomass Use in Brianza


Sixth Framework Programme

Thermal utilization of vergin and residual Biomass in Brianza (Italy) for district heating and electric cogeneration





Thermal utilization of biomass in distributed power plants, both for heat generation and possibly for heat and power co-generation, feeding district heating networks, represents a priority action with respect to the objectives of the European Community energy policy, in terms of reduction of CO2 emissions, energy supply security, energy efficiency, environmental improvement at local level in highly polluted residential areas and social acceptability. Properly selected projects may represent the least cost investment towards these objectives.
The study aims to reduce the barriers relevant to knowledge of the biomass market, diffusion of new technologies and identification of effective investment opportunities and intends to verify the financial sustainability of the best projects and the possible requirement for public support.
The district of Brianza (Northern Italy) offers favorable elements for a positive outcome and an important impact of the Project, namely:
a) Large availability of residual and virgin biomass;
b) Technological know-how and experience in new technologies;
c) Intense industrialization and high population density, associated with strong energy demand;
d) Favorable conditions for the installation of district heating systems.

Scope of the Project is the technical configuration of optimum models of energy conversion plants of virgin biomass or selected residual biomass, based on viable new technologies. The identification of local opportunities shall search a proper equilibrium between the local biomass production and the heat demand.
The work packages plan to:

  • Define the legal and regulating conditions for a thermal utilization of biomass.
  • Present the availability of biomass, both virgin and residual, at present not optimally exploited
  • Select the most interesting proven technologies of energy conversion
  • Configure three power plants models with different size and operation conditions one as integration into the existing district heating system of Monza and the other two as new systems for selected heat users poles.
  • Carry out a performance analysis and a technical, environmental and economic evaluation of the three models and assess their financial viability
  • Disseminate the results of the study and conduct actions of investment promotion.




The Project (No TREN/04/FP6EN/S07.30974/503177) objective is the rational thermal utilization of biomass in distributed power plants, both for heat generation and possibly for heat and power co-generation, feeding district heating networks. These goals constitute very important aims of the European Union and Italian energy policy, in terms of least cost renewable energy exploitation, reduction of CO2 emissions, energy supply security, social acceptability, energy efficiency and environmental improvement at local level in highly polluted residential areas.


The study focuses on the district of Monza and Brianza, a flat area of 363 km2 and a population of 730,000 people, located just north of Milan, with strong population density accompanied by pronounced environmental sensitivity, which offers several local factors providing a favourable round for a positive outcome and an important impact of the Project, namely:

  • The area is typically industrial, having 120,000 people employed in the industry, out of which 12.5 % work in the wood and furniture sector, that produces residual, mainly contaminated biomass, with high energy content.

  • The intense residential housing, combined with a rather extreme climate that causes high demand for winter heating and for summer air conditioning, offers numerous homogeneous and delimited areas exhibiting favourable parameters for the implementation of district heating systems.

Despite the wide availability of residual and virgin biomass, the state of the art indicates only marginal energy utilization of the biomass:

-The virgin biomass is partly utilized as raw material for different products (compost, particle boards), but is largely abandoned in the field or disposed of in an inefficient way.

-The overall management of the residual contaminated biomass produced by the wood and furniture sectors is not optimized and in some cases it implies problems in terms of both high disposal costs and of environmental impact in the area, especially as refers to small and medium industries.

-Additional residual biomass is provided by the general productive activities, the packing to be eliminated, the collection and selection of urban waste, the waste of pulpers and the dried sludge from sewage purification. The available biomass needs to be classified and selected and properly utilized for energy production.


The demand for buildings and water heating is fed by expensive fossil fuel, distillate oil and natural gas. The integration with biomass sources can improve the efficiency and economy of the production and stimulate the complete expansion of the system.

The most favourable conditions can be found in the town of Monza (120,000 inhabitants), characterized by an intensive housing density, where AGAM Spa, the municipal utility for energy, has already installed a medium size DH system, which in the year 2001 required a peak heat supply of 14 MWt. The plan foresees an extension of the DH up to a maximum peak demand of about 60 MWt. Heat is obtained from natural gas through CHP plants equipped with gas motor and gas boilers. The presently installed capacity is of 23 MWt and 3 MWe.

There are 50 municipalities, out of which 10 (besides Monza) have a population included between 20,000 and 40,000, where heat is produced by fossil fuel through conventional and polluting boilers. These areas are in principle qualified for several new distributed district heating systems, fed by biomass.


In order to increase the production of energy from biomass, the Project aims to reduce the barriers related with lack of knowledge of the biomass market and of new technologies, and with lack of identification and adequate promotion of specific investment opportunities.

It intends to verify the financial sustainability of the best projects and the possible requirement for public support towards implementation of European Energy Policy.


Partic. Role* Partic. No. Participant name Participant short name Country Date enter project** Date exit project**
CO 1 1 Comitato Termotecnico Italiano CTI Italy month 1 month 18
CR 2 Ingea Consulting S.r.l. Ingea Italy month 1 month 18
CR 3 Associazione Rete di Punti Energia Punti Energia Italy month 1 month 12
CR 4 Pubblidam S.r.l. Pubblidam Italy month 2 month 18
CR 5 European Biomass Association AEBIOM Belgium month 6 month 18

*CO = Coordinator CR = Contractor




The environmental benefits of the use of renewable resources, in terms of reduction of CO2 emissions (Kyoto objective) and of increased security of energy supply, are at the base of the energetic policy of the European Union and of Italy. An environmental benefit at local level, related to improvement of the air quality, is due to take place as a result of the elimination of conventional heating boilers, of the selection of environment-friendly technologies and of the particular attention in the decisions relevant to plants location.
Moreover, these projects are due to be very significant in energetic, social and cost effectiveness terms, inasmuch as they represent rational utilizations of renewable resources, at present scattered, and are associated with much higher efficiency (>80%) than the plants of simple electric power generation (about 25%) having relatively large size (>10 MWe), which are generally deemed to be the only actual opportunity for biomass energy conversion.
The energy conversion projects from biomass can be classified as priority ones for the object of a rational and efficient use of biomass in a Sustainable Energy System, both at Italian and European level, but their development is hindered by considerable barriers, deriving from the complexity of their numerous components, such as:


  • Collection, transport and storage system for biomass of different classes (virgin and residual).
  • Energy conversion plant of moderate capacity, subject to new and strict regulatory rules with respect to environmental impact.
  • Extensive and earthed heat distribution networks and connection to the electricity grid.
  • Connection substations for single heat users, including small ones, equipped with heat exchangers, power control and heat metering.

Implementation costs are therefore high and public support is required to cope with the alternative fossil fuel: accordingly, their present diffusion in the reference area of Brianza is only limited to a few industrial plants of modest power.
At European level, the above mentioned barriers have limited the diffusion of distributed projects of district heating with biomass to a few areas, particularly favored by the large availability of biomass and the high demand of heat: these areas include Austria, some Alpine sectors of Italy (South Tyrol, Piedmont, Aosta Valley), Holland and northern countries of the European Union, with prevailing use of virgin biomass of forestry origin and rare examples of distributed co-generation. The most significant experiences are being evaluated in order to identify the success factors.
Specifically, the impact of the Project can be broadly referred to several contents:
a) Presentation of the legislative and regulations framework in a new and complex sector such as biomass utilization, with reference to the specific prescriptions.
b) Rationalization of the biomass market and selection of the biomass which can be conveniently utilized, within the specific context of Brianza.
c) Identification of efficient, proven and economic technologies for biomass transformation, and selection of the optimum models in the framework of biomass availability and of heat demand.
d) Example of territorial investigation and planning of district heating systems, presentation of methodologies and results in real conditions, in order to disseminate the knowledge, identify opportunities in the area and stimulate the application in similar areas.
e) Search for the best equilibrium among thermal and electric capacity of the plants, availability of biomass and heat demand, taking into due account the maximum efficiency and the optimum economic outcome.
f) Reduction of the emissions and improvement of the environmental impact of the energy sector as a whole.
g) Evaluation of the viability conditions for some actual cases, in terms of technical, environmental and economic aspects, singling out benefits, limits, constraints and barriers.
The study is collecting information on local biomass availability and energy demand and will present typical optimum configurations for the biomass utilization, proposing differentiated models that take into account key factors (classes of biomass and size of DH systems), production criteria (heat production only, electric generation only and co-generation) and levels of emissions control.
The models will aim, for typical local conditions, to maximize the efficiency of conversion, pursuing the equilibrium between availability of biomass and consumption and obtaining the best financial result in accordance with the tariff conditions. Advanced, but proven, conversion technologies shall be adopted, such as biomass combustion in grate (stationary, traveling or vibrating) or in fluidized bed (suspension, bubbling, circulating).


Dissemination of Knowledge and Promotion of Investment

The dissemination of the knowledge acquired and organized in the course of the study, with respect to biomass market, heat and electric energy market, technologies of energy transformation, heat distribution networks, laws and regulations of the sector, will accelerate the market penetration of innovative energy technologies with a particular emphasis on the 2010 energy policy objectives.
The most significant added value refers to the identification of investment opportunities under specific, actual local conditions in Brianza. The models described by the study may represent typical and replicable configurations for similar situations widespread throughout the whole Po Valley in Italy, and also applicable in general to other Italian and European regions.
The activities of the study include a work package (Work Package 6: Dissemination of the Results and Investment Promotion), specifically dedicated to these functions, namely:


  • The direct involvement of the operators of the sector during the study, introduced through a specific initial seminar.
  • The elaboration of simplified and effective documents, due to respond to the points of view of the biomass producers, the energy users, the public agencies and the potential investors.
  • The preparation of summaries and articles of presentation and dissemination of the results.
  • The organization of a national seminar dedicated to the energy sector and the territory at Fiera di Monza (Pubblidam facility) by CTI and Punti Energia .
  • The organization of a international seminar to be held in Monza by AEBIOM.


Contributions to Standards
The study of the models for biomass utilization may provide the following impact with respect to standards:
1. Increase of the local market of biomass as a fuel and hence potential application of the regulations presently under study within the activities of the CEN TC 335 for the characterization of the material.
2. Push towards a modernization of the Italian regulations relevant to the plants for combustion of fossil fuel, that even today foresee the compulsory adoption of the open expansion vessel, with an overall increase of the construction costs and sometimes decrease of the efficiency of the energy conversion process.
3. Dissemination of criteria of economic planning and efficient implementation of DH networks and users connection adopted in the large systems, so that these criteria can be applied also in medium size systems.
4. Push towards the development of rules and standards for the determination of the avoided CO2 emissions and the saving of fossil fuel, in view of the application of the Kyoto protocol and of the titles of energy efficiency (white certificates).


Contribution to Policy Developments
The European legislative and market references shall be taken into account for structuring the scheme of results presentation, in order to facilitate their understanding and application under the conditions of other European countries, with different climate, biomass availability, energy market and criteria of renewable resources incentives.
The search of efficient and cost effective technologies for distributed generation, and especially for co-generation, constitutes a theme of interest which is common to the whole European energy environment. The study intends to update the relevant information, by activating the multiple experimented channels and looking for experimentations and data useful for the basic choices and the performances comparison.
The analysis of the combination of different biomass classes with appropriate energy conversion technologies shall allow to verify the recent European and Italian regulatory measures and hence provide elements for improving these measures.
The search of least cost for energy efficient, operationally reliable and environmentally sound projects shall facilitate the policy of support, still necessary, for the development of renewable energy in the Italian market conditions, together with comparative outline with other European situations.
Useful contribution for policy developments will specifically refer to the search of the conditions for "least cost" of the proposed solutions for distributed biomass energy utilization, in comparison with simple electric generation in large units. The particular positive aspects of distributed cogeneration with respect to simple electric generation are listed here after:


  • Demonstrate reductions in the costs associated with implementation of new technologies and/or demonstrate how innovative technological solutions can be integrated under full-scale operating conditions.
  • The relatively reduced size of the projects and their distribution in the territory tend to harmonize the biomass availability with the heat demand, thus avoiding long distance transportation of the biomass and facilitating a high energetic efficiency associated with thermal production complemented by co-generation.
  • The reduced transportation minimizes the impacts and the relevant costs.
  • Both the simple heat production and the co-generation allow a conversion efficiency about three times higher as compared with electric generation (from 25-35% to 80-90%). Actually, under the Italian conditions district heating and co-generation are most likely the least cost solutions for biomass utilization.
  • District heating allows an efficient energy management for buildings, the elimination of heat boilers (which are a very critical environmental element) and the location of the power plants outside of the urban centers.
  • The social acceptance of the projects is facilitated by the advantages relevant to service quality and environmental improvement, which are strongly felt by the citizens.

The project results provide inputs for the future development of energy policy and legislation, including the improvement of existing regulatory measures.





The key aspect of the activities is constituted by investigations at local level and by multidisciplinary studies and analyses, with the final objective to identify, configure and promote opportunities for the implementation of projects of energetic utilization of the biomass produced in Brianza, an important industrial district of Northern Italy.
The multidisciplinary nature of the study requires the creation of different work packages, which can be basically referred to as "support activities". They comprise:
- Studies and analyses;
- Investigations for fact findings;
- Development of innovation strategies;
- Operational support and dissemination, information and communication activities.
Within each work package, covering a particular sector of the overall study, experts in the specific discipline are operating. Every work package has its own distinctive scope, to be presented in separate deliverables, which will combine in a unitary vision into the technical-economic study, that delineates the opportunities of projects for biomass utilization.
In parallel with this pursuit, "management activities" are conducted in order to coordinate the technical activities of each partner toward the objectives of the Support Activities and allowing assessment of progress and results. This activity is presented as a specific work package.
In principle, technical and managerial co-ordination of all the activities and detailed coordination of some work packages, is being exercised by CTI, the committee charged for standardization activity in the electromechanical sector and dealing with research activity, classification of biomass and standardization of energy transformation equipment.
Some technical co-ordination activities inside some work packages are carried out by the firm Ingea, constituted by professionals with wide experience in the planning and development of infrastructure projects (energetic for World Bank and EBRD, public works in Italy).
The specific activities related to the achievement of the results are gathered into six distinct work packages. An additional work package includes Management Activities.
A short description of the different work packages is given here below.


a. Work Package 0: Consortium Management Activities. It includes the specific activities necessary to:

- Technical co-ordination of the individual work packages and of the links between the work packages themselves;
- Editing of documents;
- Liaison with the Commission and other interested parties;
- Monitoring of the Project progress and preparation of the Progress Reports and of the Final Report;
- Overall legal, contractual, ethical, financial and administrative management of the Project.

b. Work Package 1: Analysis of Italian and European Regulations for Biomass (Task Manager, Prof. Giovanni Riva - Comitato Termotecnico Italiano). It aims to carry out a critical assessment of the regulations in force relevant to biomass, both at national and European level (in particular as concerns disposal constraints), in order to pave the way for an effective implementation of Work Package 2.


c. Work Package 2: Classification and Availability of Biomass in Brianza (Task Manager, Arch. Giuliano Dall'O' - Associazione Rete di Punti Energia). It aims to evaluate the biomass availability, characteristics and cost in the area of potential thermal utilization. The results of this investigation are due to constitute the basis for the activities of Work Packages 3 and 4.


d. Work Package 3: Technology of Biomass Conversion (Task Manager, Ing. Mauro Cozzini - Ingea Consulting Srl). It aims to verify on the availability of proven and new technologies for heat generation plants and combined heat and power plants, including the analysis of investment and operation costs and the description of on-going experiences. The results of the analysis will govern the choice of the technology to be adopted for configuration of typical models, to be adapted to the class and quantity of available biomass (Work Package 2) and to the diagrams of local heat demand (Work Package 4).


e. Work Package 4: District Heating (Task Manager, Ing. Tranquillo Magnelli - Ingea Consulting Srl). It aims to assess the possibility of developing three new energy conversion power plants, one as integration of the existing district heating systems (size of 10-30 MWt) and two as separate ones for the selected users poles (one of 1 - 10 MWt and the other of 10-20 MWt), estimating the power and thermal energy demand of each opportunity , searching for possible type, size and location of the generation plants and elaborating the configuration of the distribution network.


f. Work Package 5: Analysis and Evaluation of Typical Projects (Task Manager, Ing. Mauro Cozzini - Ingea Consulting Srl). It aims to analyze the best opportunities identified of three exploitation projects, combining the results of the previous Work Packages 2, 3 and 4., evaluating the energy and environmental performances. The objective is the definition of some project hypotheses under specific local conditions, which at the same time are also representative of modular and replicable projects in other locations. The positive aspects relative to environmental impact shall be singled out. The evaluation of costs and benefits, including the possibility of taking advantage of contributions and favor tariffs, will point out the financial sustainability of the project.


g. Work Package 6: Dissemination of the Results and Investment Promotion (Task Manager, Prof. Giovanni Riva - Comitato Termotecnico Italiano). It aims to involve all the interested parties during the investigations on the biomass availability and heat demand and about the location of the plants in specific areas. The results of the study will be disseminated by making public and available the final reports according to the Steering Committee directions, by carrying out synthetic presentations and through the participation to seminars. Pubblidam will is conducting specific diffusion of knowledge at local level and investment promotion activities at industrial associates. AEBIOM is taking care of the diffusion of knowledge at European level.


The activities of the study have been structured and coordinated basically in connection with the three milestones which constitute partial landmarks of the study including important and autonomous results.

- Milestone 1, to be reached at the end of month 6. Identification of three priority opportunities for district heating, one as integration of the Monza DH, the other two as typical hypotheses of distributed DH (one of relatively large and the other of relatively small size).
- Milestone 2, to be reached at the end of month 12. Configuration of the three selected projects: location, size and type of PP, scheme of DH network, preliminary assessment of energy and environmental performances.
- Milestone 3, to be reached at the end of month 17. Analysis of PP performances and evaluation of the three projects from the technical, environmental, economic and financial points of view.


No significant risks are expected as refers to the implementation of the study, except for the time required for collecting the information on biomass availability and heat demand, inasmuch as this depends on the sensitiveness and understanding of the owners of the information. To take into account any unforeseen circumstances, the period for project completion has been estimated at 18 months.


Biomass Use In Brianza has been approved ed by the European Commission under the Priority Thematic Area 6.1

(Sustainable Energy Systems) of the Sixth Framework Programme

Project No TREN/04/FP6EN/S07.30974/503177