An estimation of annual global primary production of biomass has been calculated as the equivalent to the 4,500 EJ of solar energy captured every year. This impressive potential can be quantified considering that 225 EJ (5% of solar energy captured), would be enough to cover almost 50% of the world’s total primary energy demand. These 225 EJ are in line with other estimates which assume that the technical biomass exploitation limit will achieve a sustainable annual bioenergy consumption of about 270 EJ in 2050.

The bioenergy consumption rates vary considerably from country to county, as shown in the figure below. In particular, in many developing countries bioenergy is the main energy source.

Bioenergy contribution worldwide as a fraction of total energy consumption

 

Biomass in poor countries

For three quarters of the world’s population living in developing countries, biomass is the most important source of energy. With increases in population and per capita demand, and depletion of fossil-fuel resources, the demand for biomass is expected to increase rapidly in developing countries. On average, biomass produces 35 % of the primary energy in developing countries, but many sub-Saharan countries depend on biomass for up to 90 %. Biomass will remain an important global energy source in developing countries well into the next century.

Despite its wide use in developing countries, biomass is used with very low efficiency applications. The overall efficiency in traditional use (e.g. cooking stoves) is only about 5 to 15 per cent, and biomass is often less convenient to use compared with fossil fuels. It can also be a health hazard in some circumstances. For example, cooking stoves can release particulates, carbon monoxide (CO), nitrous oxides (NOx) and other organic compounds in poorly ventilated homes, often far exceeding the recommended World Health Organisation levels. Furthermore, inefficient biomass utilisation is often associated with the increasing scarcity of hand-gathered wood, nutrient depletion, and the problems of deforestation and desertification.

Bio-energy in the EU

 

In the EU, renewable energy sources provide approximately 11% of the total gross inland energy consumption (Eurostat 2012).

Bioenergy contributes about 68% of all RES primary energy requirements of the European Union, about 95% of RES heat and 18% of RES electricity. Bioenergy use in EU countries varies from 1% in several Member States to 22% in Denmark.

Contribution of RES to the EU primary energy supply (2002)

 

 

EU-28

 

1000 tonnes 

equivalent

%

Renewables

177,430

100%

Biomass

106,083

59%

Hydro

28,811

16%

Wind

17,692

10%

Solar

9,101

5%

Geothermal

5,698

3%

 

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Source: EUROSTAT