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Worldwide biomass boom

Electricity generation capacity from biomass could increase by 8 GW until 2015, according to ecoprog and Fraunhofer UMSICHT.

By Kari Williamson

Currently there are almost 2000 mono-incinerating biomass power plants with a capacity of 22.5 GW in over 40 countries worldwide, and there are more than 1000 active biomass plants in Europe alone.

Almost 800 biomass power plants with a capacity of over 8700 GW were commissioned in the past five years. Another 9000 plants are supposed to be constructed by 2015.

Annual investments in new construction and maintenance could increase from the current €12.2 billion to €15.5bn.

Spurred by feed-in tariffs

The largest market driver for the biomass boom is the increasing number of feed-in tariffs for electricity from biomass, according to ecoprog and Fraunhofer UMSICHT's report Biomass to Energy – The World market for Biomass Power Plants.

The majority of the promotion schemes are financed by electricity customers, which makes them comparatively independent from national budgets and thus from the financial crisis. Price increases of fossil energy fuels and the introduction of CO2 certificates also increase the competitiveness of electricity from biomass.

Biomass still most widespread in Europe, partially due to the large amounts of woods in the Scandinavian countries Finland and Sweden.

Germany has, thanks to long-term and intensive subsidisation, many biomass plants, but these are relatively small in size.

Outside Europe most of the power plants are located in Brazil, China and India. China and India subsidise electricity from biomass; in Brazil, about 400 ethanol factories use their own bagasse for electricity generation.

USA and Canada have far fewer biomass plants, but these are, however, much larger.

Asia to lead on capacity

Asia could surpass Europe as the worldwide leading biomass market over the next five years.

In monetary terms, however, Europe remains in the lead as European biomass power plants and biomass heating power plants are comparatively larger and they generally also provide heating. Plants in China or India are often designed for electricity generation only.

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