Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Biomass - the Largest Source of Renewable Energy

As a primary energy source, renewable energy is significant. It delivered 1,448 Mtoe of primary energy in 2004 and accounted for 13.1% of the 11,059 Mtoe of World Total Primary Energy Supply (TPES). Because of its wide non-commercial use in developing countries, biomass in particular has provided the largest source of renewable energy. Its contribution of 1,150 Mtoe represented 79% of the total supply of renewable energy, followed by hydropower with a 16.8% share.

Primary biomass energy consists of firewood, agricultural residues, animal and human wastes, charcoal, and other derived fuels. Biomass currently represents approximately 10% of world final energy consumption, being the fourth largest provider after oil with 34%, coal with 26%, and natural gas with 22%. Biomass has a higher share with 10.3% than either nuclear with 5.6% or hydro with 2.3%.

According to the IEA, the use of biomass will continue to grow at a rate of 1.4% per year until 2015 and at a rate of 1.3% from 2015 to 2030. The overall share of biomass will remain at 10% of the total. The total of the renewable energy supply experienced an annual growth of 3.5% over the last 15 years—more than the 1.9% annual growth in TPES. Biomass grew with an annual rate of 1.5%. However, the “new renewables” such as solar and wind power have recorded a much higher annual growth of 8.3% up to 2005; both continued to increase even faster in 2006.

The developed countries account for the largest proportion of the new renewables. Out of 11,059 Mtoe of total primary energy in the world, 1,508 Mtoe (or 13.6%) is converted into electricity. 17.1% or 248 Mtoe of all renewable energy is converted into electricity, but only 2.8% or 32 Mtoe of biomass is converted into electricity. “Modern” use is in fact slightly higher because this does not include use of gas and other commercial processes, but it is still a tiny proportion of total biomass consumption.

Renewables, including hydropower, are the fourth largest contributor to global electricity production. They accounted for 15.1% of production in 2004, after coal with 38%, nuclear with 22.9%, and natural gas with 18%. Most of the electricity generated from renewables comes from hydropower plants, which provide 83%, followed by biomass with 9.3%. Geothermal, solar, and wind energy are growing fast but still only accounted for 7.3% of renewable energy generation in 2004.


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