EIA updates forecasts of wood, waste biomass energy consumption

By Erin Voegele | October 09, 2013

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has published the October issue of its Short-Term Energy and Winter Fuels Outlook (STEO), providing forecasts for electricity consumption from wood biomass and waste biomass feedstocks.

Across all sectors, the EIA predicts wood biomass will be used to generate 105,000 megawatt hours (MWh) per day of electricity in 2013, increasing to 110,000 MWh per day next year. Wood biomass was used to generate approximately 103,000 MWh per day of power last year.

Waste biomass is expected to be used to generate 55,000 MWh of electricity this year across all sectors, increasing to 57,000 MWh per day next year. In 2012, waste biomass was used to generate an average of 55,000 MWh per day of electricity.

The EIA predicts that the electrical power sector will consume 0.184 quadrillion BTU (Quad) of wood biomass this year, increasing to 0.212 Quad next year. Consumption from waste biomass is also expected to increase slightly, from 0.256 Quad this year to 0.266 Quad next year.

The industrial sector is expected to consume 1.266 Quad of wood biomass this year, along with 0.178 Quad of waste biomass. Next year, consumption in the sector is expected drop to 1.231 Quad for wood biomass and increase to 0.181 Quad for waste biomass.

The commercial sector is forecast to consume 0.063 Quad of energy from wood biomass this year, and maintain that level of consumption through 2014. Consumption of energy from waste biomass is expected to increase slightly, from 0.047 Quad this year to 0.048 Quad next year.

The EIA also predicts that the residential sector will consume 0.420 Quad of energy from wood biomass this year, dropping to 0.414 Quad next year.

On a combined basis, all sectors are expected to consume 1.934 Quad of energy from wood biomass this year, dropping to 1.920 Quad next year. Consumption of energy from waste biomass, however, is forecast to increase from 0.482 Quad this year to 0.495 Quad in 2014.

Regarding heating costs, the EIA predicts an increase for most households when compared to last winter. Specifically, 90 percent of the 116 million homes in the U.S. are expected to face higher heating costs this year, mainly as a results of higher projected prices for natural gas, propane and electricity. Overall, heating prices are expected to be 13 percent higher than last winter’s average, but 4 percent below the average for the past five winters.

According to the EIA, nearly 2.5 billion households used wood as their primary residential space heating fuel in 2012, equating to approximately 2 percent of all households. That figure represents a 39 percent increase since 2004. In addition, approximately 8 percent of U.S. households use wood as a secondary heating source, second only to electricity.

The EIA notes that approximately 20 percent of New England homes, or 1.1 million, used wood for space heating, water heating or cooking in 2009. That level is nearly twice the national rate. Wood use was also more common in rural areas of New England, where almost half of all households used wood, compared to only 12 percent in urban areas. The EIA also specifies that unlike other home heating fuels, there are currently no readily available sources for estimating wood consumption or prices at the regional or national level.