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Energy Insight: Electricity - Renewables: production of electricity from biofuels and waste in OECD countries (DSS30)
Co-firing of biomass with coal in large-scale coal fired electricity generation plants has been encouraged in the UK.
Gasification of biomass can be carried out to produce pipeline quality biomethane.
Ethanol (a type of alcohol) is produced from sugar-rich crops such as corn and sugar beet. The sugar is extracted from the plants and allowed to ferment, producing ethanol. Ethanol is used widely in Brazil where it is mixed with petrol – 80-90% petrol and 10-20% ethanol. Such mixes are also often used in the USA, especially in cities that suffer from air pollution such as Los Angeles. The presence of just a small amount of ethanol makes the fuel burn more cleanly.
Biomass boilers are usually serviced annually by the company which installed them; service costs depend on the parts required and the plant type and are likely to have a labour cost in the range of £400-£1,000/year for plants larger than 1 MWth. The price of woodchips usually varies from 1.0 – 1.8 p per kWh, costing from £25-£45 per tonne depending on the moisture content, the source of the wood and the distance it has to travel. The much greater capital cost of biomass systems means that the payback period will, inevitably, be longer than for a fossil fuelled boiler system. Set against the greater capital cost is the usually lower price of biomass fuels. The majority of biomass systems to date have been installed in areas where mains gas is not available and where, in comparison to the price of fuel oils, biomass fuels are relatively cheap. Taking into account these two factors a typical payback period for a biomass boiler is about 8 years, but this figure can vary considerably. If fuel oil prices continue to increase steadily over the coming years, payback periods will fall as wood prices are not anticipated to increase at the same rate as fossil fuel prices. Finally, where grants or other incentives are available a typical payback period is about 5 years. (Biomass Energy Centre FAQs, v1.0).
The Renewable Heat Incentive was set up by the UK Government in 2014 to offer householders and businesses financial incentives in return for implementing eligible renewable heat technologies. It is the first scheme of its kind in the world with hopes that the scheme will contribute towards the 202 target of 12% of heating coming from renewables. Biomass (wood fuelled) boilers and biomass pellet stoves with integrated boilers providing space heating qualify for the renewable heat incentive scheme.
Historical information on biomass can be found here.
Production of electricity
Electricity generation from biofuels and waste increased from 122.7 TWh in 1990 to 358.0 TWh in 2017. Electricity generation from solid biofuels has a 2.5% annual growth rate and biogases a 12.2% annual growth rate between 1990 and 2017. Solid biofuels are the fourth largest form of renewable energy after hydropower, wind and solar PV. In 2017 the largest producer of electricity from biofuels and waste was the US which produced 78.4 TWh; followed by Germany with 58.7 TWh and then Japan with 34.2 TWh. The graph below shows that OECD Europe contributes the highest amount of electricity production from biofuels and waste to the OECD total and the Middle East contributes the least. It should be noted that some of the figures are estimates because some countries do not separate renewable and non-renewable municipal waste.
Energy Insight details
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Physical description: Pdf 2pp; statistical datasheet, available to logged-in EI members and subscribers.