Biomass is the most widely used renewable energy source both generally and in industry. Biomass availability and use is strongly dependent on regional conditions.


Although biomass provides 8% of industry's final energy, in some regions there is almost no biomass use in any industrial sector. In regions such as Latin America and Africa, by contrast, biomass contributes around 30% of industry's final energy (IEA statistics). Wide differences in use are also observed among different industrial sectors.

Biomass is used to a significant degree for industrial heat in the food and tobacco, paper, pulp and printing and wood and wood products sectors in most regions. By contrast, almost no process heat is produced from biomass in the iron and steel and non-metallic mineral sectors, except in Brazil, or in the chemical and petrochemical, non-ferrous metals, transport equipment, machinery, mining and quarrying, construction or textile and leather sectors.

The cement and iron and steel sectors in Brazil use biomass for 34% and 40% respectively of the sectors' final energy consumption. The fact that such a high level of biomass contribution can be sustained in the two most energy intensive sectors in Brazil means that a similar level of contribution should also be technically feasible elsewhere. The limiting factors on the extension of biomass use in these two sectors are clearly therefore non-technical ones. They may include resource availability, economics and competition from other energy sources.

The estimates of the potential role of biomass in 2050 are strongly sensitive to the state of the markets for biomass trading among different regions. If there is no interregional trading of biomass, the potential contribution of biomass in industry is estimated to be 18.3 EJ/year; if there are liquid markets for interregional biomass trading this contribution is estimated to be 30.3 EJ/year.

Transporting biomass is unlikely to have a significant impact on overall emission reductions. A state of the art coal-fired power plant with 46% efficiency co-firing pellets shipped by a 30 kilotonne (kt) ship over 6 800 km would produce emissions of around 85 grams of CO2/kilowatt hour (kWh). Using bio-coal5 shipped by a 80 kt ship over 11 000 km, the emissions would be reduced to 32 grams of CO2/kWh. By comparison, the same power plant using coal would emit 796 grams of CO2/kWh.


The Innovator

Gurmit Singh, New Delhi

Dr. Gurmit Singh is a research scientist and an environmentalist, his profound enthusiasm and passion for renewable energy technologies has been for 28 years now. He holds both his Bachelors and Masters degrees from 'Rheinisch-Westfalische Technische Hochschule Aachen.' In Germany and spent 14 years in Germany working as a research Scientist and then 8 years in Florida, USA in Solar Research. He is winner of 'Lockheed Martin Innovation Award 2008' in renewable energy, also won the '2010 BuildArch Award'and recently won the 'i3 India Innovates Award 2011'. His professional career started with a technology assessment of the carbon abatement potential of specific industrial technologies in the EU, and the evaluation of national and international policies and measures in the areas of climate change, energy efficiency and renewable energy. Currently he is a Visiting Faculty for 'Renewable Energy' at Amity University, Noida