Solid biomass from forests, farms and cities is a major source of energy. Heat and power from solid biomass could provide a fifth of the energy the world consumes in 2050. This brief focuses on the commercial supply of solid lignocellulosic biomass for heat and power. The range of solid biomass sources and applications is wide, but several are prevalent: use of biomass residues for cooking and heating; use of biomass residues in industrial applications for heat and power; use of biomass pellets and firewood in household heating; and use of biomass chips and pellets in industrial/standalone heat and power applications.
Not only does biomass have to be grown and collected, it must also be channelled for energy use in a manner that does not compete with alternative uses (e.g. bedding for livestock and material use) and must be: transported to energy production facilities while retaining its energy content; gathered cost-effectively to compete with other heat and power sources; grown in an environmentally sustainable fashion; and be of sufficient quality to be used with confidence and traded freely. This technology brief explores some of the ways in which these challenges are being met.