Bioenergy is a form of renewable energy that uses organic renewable materials (known as biomass) to produce heat, electricity, biogas and liquid fuels. The most cost effective and environmentally beneficial sources of biomass are typically wastewater, municipal waste and waste streams from the agricultural, forestry and industrial sectors.
Bioenergy technologies are well-developed worldwide. Globally, bioenergy was the source of half of all renewable energy used in 2017 and is forecast to rise exponentially. The International Energy Agency’s market analysis and forecast report, Renewables 2018, identified modern bioenergy as the ‘overlooked giant within renewable energy’.
A report for the International Renewable Energy Agency, Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2017, found the cost of electricity from biomass to be equal to that from onshore wind projects, and well within the range of maximum and minimum costs of fossil fuel generation.
How is biomass produced?
Biomass can be converted to bioenergy using a range of technologies depending on the type of feedstock (raw material), scale/size of the project and form of energy to be produced. Conversion technologies include combustion, pyrolysis, gasification, transesterification, anaerobic digestion and fermentation, or may be linked to processes such as biorefining.
Some conversion processes also produce byproducts that can be used to make useful materials such as renewable bitumen and even biomass-based concrete. Additional benefits include emissions reduction, waste disposal, providing support for rural economies, and improving air quality.