IEA predicts global growth in biomass power

By Erin Voegele | April 19, 2013

The International Energy Agency has made its annual report to the Clean Energy Ministerial, reporting that renewable technologies are one of the few bright spots in an otherwise bleak assessment of global progress towards low-carbon energy. The CEM brings together representatives of countries responsible for approximately 80 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“The drive to clean up the world’s energy system has stalled,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven told the CEM. “Despite much talk by world leaders, and despite a boom in renewable energy over the last decade, the average unit of energy produced today is basically as dirty as it was 20 years ago.”

One section of the annual report focuses specifically on renewable power. According to the document, renewable power technologies are broadly on track to meet the 2 degree Celsius scenario (2DC) targets by 2020. The 2DS describes an energy system consistent with an emissions trajectory that research indicates would give an 80 percent chase of limiting average global temperature increases by 2 degrees Celsius. It targets cutting energy-related carbon dioxide emissions by more than half in 2050, compared to 2009 levels.

According to the report, improving economic competitiveness is likely to support robust growth in renewable energy. However, the IEA stresses that effective policy support will be vital.

The report notes that electricity production from solid biomass, biogas, renewable municipal solid waste and liquid biofuels grew by more than 170 terawatt hours (TWh) from 2000 to 2011, a growth rate of more than 8 percent per year. By 2011, approximately 310 TWh of capacity was installed, up from 280TWh in 2010.

The IEA said in the report that deployment of biomass power is on track to meet the 2DS goal of 655 TWh. Medium-term projections show biomass power generation increasing to more than 530 TWh in 2017, with the largest developments expected in China, Brazil and Japan. Expansion is also expected in the U.S., which has the largest current biomass capacity, and parts of Europe. The IEA noted that meeting 2DS objectives will ultimately depend on the cost and availability of biomass.