Electricity is a versatile energy carrier. Electricity is the sector where renewables have experienced the largest increase over the last decade (14,3% in 2004 compared to 28,8% in 2015).
Bioelectricity is generated from two bioenergy sources:
Solid biomass (wood chips, pellets, straw, dry manure) can be co-fired in conventional coal fired power plants. This is a low-cost option, requiring little investment. The conversion efficiency of biomass into electricity is practically the same as for the fossil fuel . Smaller-scale dedicated biomass‑to‑electricity plants often employ cogeneration to make use of waste heat, thus compensating for lower electric efficiency and higher costs.
Biogas and biomethane can be used both for electricity generation or co-generation, and for injection into the gas grid as a direct substitute for natural gas. Electricity generation from these sources is already quite efficient and low‑polluting. The extent of methane leakages from biogas plants can be substantial, however, and the losses of this potent greenhouse gas influence the final GHG efficiency of this bioenergy pathway significantly (EEA,2013). Contrary to what the current EU-28 discussions on biopower may suggest, the majority of bioelectricity (57,7%) is generated by combined heat and power plants (CHP). This is the case for 22 of the 28 EU member states. Only Belgium, Italy, Hungary, Spain, Ireland and the UK have more than 50% of their bioelectricity produced in power only plants. On the opposite, power only plants are predominants in the EU total electricity mix. The current EU debate on biomass sustainability seems to suggest that as far as biopower is concerned, only biomass used in CHP should be considered as sustainable in the future. The top 5 EU-28 countries in biopower represent 68% of the total EU bioelectricity generation. In
comparison to the top 5 in bioheat, it can observe that the bioelectricity market is more concentrated. Among the following top 5, led by Germany (28%) and the UK (17%), different approaches exist. While in Germany and Italy, the majority of bioelectricity is produced in a high number of small/medium size biogas plants, the UK is showing an alternative model with a limited number of large installations consuming woody biomass.
Solid fuels (mostly woody biomass) amounts to more than half of the biomass fuel consumed by the biopower industry mainly in the form of wood chips and pellets.Compared to heat generation, biogas plays an important role in power generation with more than a third of the fuel used for this purpose. Germany alone represents more than half of all EU-28 biogas consumption for power generation.Municipal waste recovery and liquid biofuels represent the remaining 15%.
AEBIOM Statistical report, 2017.
EEA, 2013. EU bioenergy potential from a resource-efficiency perspective.