Electricity generation from biomass continues to boom worldwide

In the next five years, 820 biomass power plants with a capacity of 12.5 GW will be constructed throughout the world – more than ever before. Europe will remain the largest market but China, India and the USA will experience the largest growth.

The energetic use of solid biomass such as wood will increase to a larger extent than ever before in the years to come. At present, more than 2,200 biomass power plants are operational throughout the world. They have a total capacity of about 32,000 megawatts (MW). In Europe alone, there are more than 1,100 active biomass power plants. Another 130 coal power plants co-incinerate biomass.

Over the past five years, about 150 biomass power plants went operational per year worldwide, each one with an average capacity of 11 MW, which is more than ever before. However, this growth will once more accelerate in the future: by 2016, 165 plants with an average capacity of more than 15 MW will be commissioned per year. Investments in new construction and maintenance of biomass power plants will increase from currently 10 to more than 14 billion euros annually.

The trend for developing biomass follows the trend for developing renewable energies. More and more countries introduce feed-in tariffs for electricity from biomass. The increasing prices for fossil energy sources, the fact that many countries aim at increasing the use of domestic raw materials and the introduction of CO2 certificates for fossil fuels in Europe have over the past years improved the competitiveness of electricity generation from biomass.

In the years to come, Europe will remain the largest market for biomass power plants. More than 300 plants with a capacity of over 4,500 MW will be constructed there. In the past, only few countries dominated the market. By now, the number of important national markets has increased. Great Britain is the largest national market where about 1,400 MW of additional capacity will be commissioned by 2016. The markets in France and Poland will also accelerate significantly. Traditionally important markets such as Finland and Sweden will remain interesting mainly due to replacement and modernisation measures. Only the German market, which was one of the largest in the past years, stagnates. After 12 years of intensive subsidisation, most favourable locations for new plants are being used. At the same time, the boom of modernising plants has not yet begun.

Outside of Europe, most biomass power plants are located in Brazil, China and India. China and India subsidise biomass electricity; in Brazil, about 430 ethanol and sugar factories use their own bagasse to generate electricity. There are only few, but very large, biomass power plants in the USA and Canada. They oftentimes depend on subsidies from the respective federal state or province; however, the structure of these subsidies remains fragmented in regional terms. The booming gas segment in the USA furthermore aggravates the conditions for biomass power plants. After few large-scale projects are realised, prospects for the biomass industry will be uncertain.

In terms of number of plants and capacities, Asia will supersede Europe as the leading market by 2016. Nevertheless, investments in Europe will continue to be the highest due to stricter standards.

The recently published third edition of the market study "Biomass to Energy" is the world's largest data collection on electricity generation from biomass. Find more information at: www.ecoprog.com

As a recognised industry expert, the Cologne-based consultancy ecoprog accompanies clients from Germany and abroad in working on implementation-oriented management issues with a political, technological or economic background in the segments of environmental and energy technology. The company focuses on strategy advisory, market and competition analyses as well as multi-client studies.

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