There is a broad spectrum of energy generation costs for biomass, reflecting the different feedstocks used. Costs range from a negative cost (or credit) for some waste woods to low cost for residual materials and then to more expensive energy crops. Using waste wood in steam turbine/combined heat and power (CHP) plants is one of the cheapest options. Gasification of solid biomass has a wide range of applications but is still relatively expensive.
In the long term it is expected that using wood generated gas both in micro-CHP units (engines and fuel cells) and in gas-and-steam power plants will be economically favorable. There is good potential to use solid biomass for heat generation in both small and large heating centers linked to local heating networks. In recent years converting crops into ethanol and ‘bio diesel’ made from rapeseed methyl ester (RME) has become increasingly important, for example in Brazil, the USA and Europe. Processes for obtaining synthetic fuels from biogenic synthesis gases will also play a larger role.
Latin and North America, Europe and the Transition Economies all have the potential to exploit modern technologies either in stationary appliances or the transport sector. In the long term, Europe and the Transition Economies will realise 20-50% of the potential for biomass from energy crops, whilst biomass use in all the other regions will have to rely on forest residues, industrial wood waste and straw. In Latin America, North America and Africa in particular, an increasing residue potential will be available.
In other regions, such as the Middle East and all Asian regions, the additional use of biomass is restricted, either due to a generally low availability or already high traditional use. For the latter a cleaner option is to use modern, more efficient technologies, improving sustainability and avoiding the current negative effects of indoor pollution and heavy workloads to transport the fuel.
employment in the biomass industry Biomass power could be supporting 2.1 million jobs in 2030 under both Energy [R]evolution scenarios, compared to less than 1 million in the Reference scenario.