Biomass for Heat and Power


January 2015

More than half of the total global renewable energy consumption today is based on biomass. This IRENA/IEA-ETSAP Technology Brief provides technical background analyses the potential and barriers for market growth, and offers insights for policy makers on this key renewable energy technology. In the power sector, biomass is typically co-fired with coal in large-scale power plants and gasified or combusted in medium to small-scale combined heat and power (CHP) plants. Furthermore it provides heating (for space and cooking) and hot water in residential homes and process heat in industrial plants in the chemical, cement, pulp and paper, and food-processing industries

Although this vital renewable energy resource is available in almost every country, new technology developments in cultivation, pre-treatment, collection and transport of biomass have increased the availability of feedstock that are sustainable and with high energy content, at affordable prices.

Main challenges related to bioenergy is its sustainable supply and the management and optimisation of potential benefits and trade-offs, such as greenhouse gas emission savings, biodiversity, employment opportunities and competition with food.