A new report out from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) predicts that biomass could provide 20% of global electricity by 2030. If biomass’ full potential is realized, biomass could represent 60% of global renewable energy usage by 2030.
Biomass has a number of different uses, from power and heat, to powering transportation, and even for industrial and commercial uses.
The majority of biomass usage is in relation to cooking and heating. While many champion biomass as the potential future of renewable energy, others worry that it could lead to extensive deforestation and higher carbon emissions. Also of concern is that energy crops will take up space needed for consumable food, leading to a spike in food prices.
In trying to calm the critics, IRENA said that 40% of the global biomass supply would come from agricultural residues and waste, neither of which competes with the food supply. They also believe that a large amount will come from sustainable forestry products. IRENA believes that biomass is an essential part of any country’s renewable energy portfolio, as it provides for a reliable source of energy that can be used when less reliable sources, such as wind and solar, aren’t meeting demand. Still, they admit that innovation needed for truly sustainable biomass systems is still a little ways off.
“Sustainable bioenergy has the potential to be a game-changer in the global energy mix,” Dolf Gielen, IRENA director of innovation and technology, said. “Sustainably sourced biomass, such as residues, and the use of more efficient technology and processes can shift biomass energy production from traditional to modern and sustainable forms, simultaneously reducing air pollution and saving lives.”
Biomass has been highly successful in the past few years, producing a record 7% of the U.K.’s energy in Q2 2014. Some believe that with the right policy support, biomass could be the leading renewable energy source in the world.
“It's vital that we get more flexible biomass generation into our low carbon power supply as well as more wind,” Dr. Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Agency in the U.K., said. “Biomass has reached a new record, but this valuable growth won't continue unless the Government puts supportive policies in place.”
The full report can be found here.