The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) just released a report that shows that biomass has a heap of potential.
The report titled, Global Bioenergy Supply and Demand Projections for the Year 2030, says that by tapping “sustainably sourced” biomass, greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) can be limited such that temperatures of “two degrees Celcius above pre-industrial levels” can be achieved by 2100.
“Sustainably sourced” biomass are those which do not conflict with food, they are either agricultural wastes or energy crops. The monicker is essential because bioenergy has its own opposition. Arguments against this form of energy range from the high cost, to its negative carbon capture, to its conflict with arable land for food among other arguments.
But using waste biomass for energy is but a simple case of logic. Heaps of biomass generated simply rots in the fields and releases methane. Some biomass is dumped into landfills and sometimes contaminates the water supply. Scott Sklar, founder and president of The Stella Group and Chair of the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition, adds that “We have many technologies to dispose of it cleanly, meeting the most intense environmental standards. Why wouldn’t we want to do it since it’s a renewable resource?”
Biomass is currently being used in cooking in the developing world, and in heating houses and buildings in industrialized countries. In 2010, the energy derived from biomass for these purposes was 53 exajoles. In the IRENA report, the use of biomass is expected to double.
To tap this potential, policies and partnerships are needed, particularly in Asia and Europe, where much of the supply resides. The supply chain for biomass has to be smoothed to fully realize its potential.
picture (c) Cornell University