EIA predicts increased use of wood in power, home heating sectors

By Erin Voegele | January 09, 2013

On Jan. 8, the U.S. Energy Information Administration released the January issue of its Short-Term Energy Outlook, which is the first to include forecasts for 2014. The report includes forecasts for biomass-fueled power production, as well as projections for woody biomass heating applications.

According to the outlook, the EIA expects total electrical generation to remain relatively unchanged in 2013, but grow by 94 GWh per day in 2014. A 32 percent increase in the price of natural gas is expected to result in a fuel share drop to 27.9 percent, from 30.3 percent in 2012. Coal-fueled generation is expected to offset this decrease with a 166 GWh per day increase, from 37.6 percent in 2012 to 39 percent in 2013. Renewable energy generation and nuclear power are expected to account for relative 75 GWh per day and 32 GWh per day increases.

Retail residential power rates are expected to increase by 1.9 percent in 2013 and 2.6 percent in 2014. In 2012, retail electricity rates increased by 1.3 percent.

Consumption of renewable energy is expected to increase by 3.6 percent in 2013. Hydropower consumption is projected to increase by 1.7 percent, while the consumption of nonhydropower renewables is expected to grow by 4.4 percent. In 2014, nonhydrorenewables are expected to increase by 3.7 percent.

According to information published by the EIA, wood biomass accounted for approximately 102,000 MWh per day of power in 2012. In 2013 and 2014 woody biomass power generation is expected to increase to a relative 103,000 MWh per day and 105,000 MWh per day. Power generation from waste biomass is also expected to trend upward, from 55,000 MWh per day in 2012, to an average of 56,000 MWh per day in 2013 and 2014.

The number of households using biomass as a primary winter heating fuel is also expected to increase. During the 2012-’13 winter 598,000 households in the Northeast are expected to heat with woody biomass, a 7.7 percent increase. An additional 662,000 homes are expected to use the fuel in the Midwest, representing a 3.4 percent increase. In the southern region of the country, 620,000 homes are expected to heat with woody biomass, a 1.7 percent increase. In the western portion of the nation, the EIA expects 752,000 homes to be heated with biomass this winter, a 0.3 percent increase. Overall, a total of 2.64 million homes are expected to employ woody biomass as their primary heating fuel this winter, which is a 3 percent increase over last year.