Facts about biomass energy

Biomass is a renewable energy source, and can be anything from energy crops to agricultural or forestry residues and waste. It is currently the largest form of renewable energy in Europe.  

Biomass has been used as fuel for tens of thousands of years. Development of biomass applications has made great strides in recent decades. There are now a variety of methods for converting biomass into heat and electricity, from pellets for household heating to agricultural waste used to produce electricity in commercial power plants.

Bioenergy expected to make up more than half of EU renewable energy in 2020

Bioenergy is currently the largest form of renewable energy in the EU and is expected to keep its dominant position in the realisation of the EU 2020 targets. This is largely caused by the dominant role of biomass in heat and transport. While alternative renewable energy options exist for electricity production, transport and heating depend largely on biomass.

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Four per cent of EU electricity generation

Biomass and waste provided around four per cent of the EU's electricity generation in 2010. Biomass is used primarily in countries with extensive forest industries, where residues such as branches, wood chips and sawdust can be used to produce electricity and heat. Countries with large agricultural industries and industries that produce waste products that can be used as biofuels also have potential to increase their use of biomass.

Dramatic increase expected

The number of power plants in Europe that run solely on biomass is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years. In addition, it is used along with coal in many hard coal-fired power plants.

Sustainable biomass makes important contribution to CO2 reduction

Biomass can contribute to reducing CO2 emissions. To ensure biomass for energy leads to meaningful CO2 reduction, cultivation and production must be carried out in a controlled, sustainable manner. Vattenfall continuously improves the checks and balances it has in place to ensure the biomass we use is sustainable. Vattenfall is a member of the Sustainable Biomass Partnership.

Energy Triangle

In supplying society with energy, a balance must be struck between three key dimensions: competitiveness, security of supply, and the environment and climate. No single energy source is optimal from all dimensions. This energy triangle illustrates the pros and cons of biomass.

Climate and environment: By using biomass in power production instead of fossil fuels, CO2 emissions are significantly reduced. Carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere when biomass is burned, but when biomass grows it binds carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. Properly managed biomass is therefore carbon neutral over time.   

Security of supply: Biomass can be converted into a stable and reliable supply of electricity and heat. Biomass can be securely sourced on small scales, but supply of larger volumes is currently difficult to secure. One important step is to establish a global trade and certification system. Biomass resources are geographically diversified and political risk is limited.

Competitiveness: Using biomass to produce electricity is currently more expensive than using energy sources such as coal, gas or nuclear power. The global biomass supply chain is developing and, over time, technological and logistical improvements will bring down prices. An increased CO2 price will also improve the economic competitiveness of biomass.

Last updated: 2016-08-24 16:17