Is Biomass Being Used In Australia?

Biomass is defined as organic material that comes from plants and animals (EIA, 2022). This includes wood, crops, manure, and some garbage. Biomass contains stored energy from the sun. When it is burned, the chemical energy is released as heat (Britannica, 2024).

Globally, biomass is a major source of renewable energy. It accounts for about 5% of the world’s total primary energy use (EIA, 2022). In some developing countries, biomass accounts for over 50% of energy consumption, especially for heating and cooking.

In Australia, biomass is also an important renewable energy source. About 5% of Australia’s total primary energy consumption comes from biomass. Most of this is from bagasse, a fibrous waste product from sugarcane processing. Wood and wood waste, such as sawmill residues, also contribute. Energy from biomass is used for electricity generation, heating, and transportation fuels in Australia.

Types of Biomass

There are three main sources of biomass: plant biomass, animal biomass, and municipal waste biomass. According to the National Energy Education Development Project (Types of Biomass), the most common types of biomass are:

Plant biomass includes trees, grasses, crops, and other plants. Sources of plant biomass for energy include:

  • Wood and wood waste from forestry and industry
  • Energy crops like switchgrass or fast-growing trees
  • Agricultural residues like corn stalks or sugarcane waste

Animal biomass includes manure and other waste from livestock operations. Manure can be used to produce biogas in anaerobic digesters.

Municipal waste biomass includes urban wood waste, municipal solid wastes, landfill gas, and sewage sludge. Landfill gas is produced by the natural decomposition of municipal solid waste.

Biomass Energy in Australia

Biomass is increasingly being used as an energy source in Australia. The main uses of biomass for energy production include:

biomass provides renewable energy in australia from agricultural, forestry, and waste feedstocks.

  • Electricity generation – Biomass is used to fuel power plants that generate electricity. Key resources used include agricultural crop residues, forestry wood waste, and municipal solid waste.
  • Heating and cooling – Biomass provides thermal energy for heating and cooling systems in commercial, institutional and industrial facilities. Wood pellets, biogas, and biofuels are common biomass resources.
  • Transportation fuels – Biofuels derived from biomass like ethanol and biodiesel are blended with conventional fuels to power vehicles.

The most common biomass resources used in Australia are agricultural crop and forestry residues, municipal solid waste, and purpose-grown energy crops. Crop residues like bagasse, cereal straw, and wood waste from plantation forestry and sawmills have significant potential. There is also growing use of organic municipal solid waste in waste-to-energy plants.

Current Biomass Projects

There are several major biomass facilities currently operating in Australia. Some of the key projects include:

The MacKay Renewable Biocommodities Pilot Plant operated by Biomass Projects in Queensland has a capacity of 25,000 tonnes per year and uses sugarcane bagasse and wood waste as feedstocks.

Australian Paper’s Maryvale Mill in Victoria has been using waste timber and plantation thinnings as biomass fuel in addition to natural gas since 2003. The mill’s biomass capacity is estimated at 150,000 tonnes per year [1].

South East Fibre Exports (SEFE) operates a wood pellet production facility in Eden, NSW with a capacity of 240,000 tonnes per year using plantation pine sawmill residues [1].

There are also several smaller biomass power plants such as the 20MW generator at the Mt Gambier sawmill in South Australia.

The main biomass feedstocks used at these facilities include sugarcane bagasse, wood waste from sawmills, plantation thinnings, and forest residues.

Biomass Potential

Australia has significant potential for increased biomass energy production from agricultural, forestry, and waste resources. According to Geoscience Australia, the technically available biomass resource could provide over 80,000 petajoules (PJ) per year, which is more than Australia’s total annual energy consumption [1]. In 2015, it was estimated that Australia was only utilizing about 3% of the identified biomass resource base [2].

The largest biomass resources are agricultural residues like cereal straws, sugarcane bagasse, and cotton gin trash. Plantation forests also provide a significant resource in the form of wood waste. Municipal solid waste and wastewater sludge from urban areas represent another source of biomass for energy. Australia’s extensive land area means biomass feedstocks are geographically dispersed, requiring decentralized biomass facilities located near the resources.

While Australia has plentiful biomass resources, the immature nature of the industry has meant utilization is far below the estimated potential. Concerted efforts by government, industry, and researchers will be needed to develop the infrastructure, technology, and markets to significantly scale up bioenergy production.


There are several benefits associated with biomass energy in Australia. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, biomass energy has the potential to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuels. When biomass is burned, it releases carbon dioxide but this is offset by the carbon dioxide captured in the plant matter growth. The carbon in biomass comes from atmospheric carbon dioxide absorbed by plant matter, creating a closed carbon cycle with no net addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. In contrast, burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide that has been locked underground for millions of years, resulting in a net increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases.

Another advantage of biomass energy is waste utilization, according to Syntech Bioenergy. Agricultural residues, municipal solid waste, and forestry waste products can serve as feedstocks for biomass energy production. This provides a use for waste materials that would otherwise end up in landfills and generates energy in the process.

Biomass production can also aid in rural development, as explained by the European Biomass Association. Growing biomass feedstocks and building biomass facilities creates economic opportunities and jobs in rural communities. The distributed nature of biomass resources benefits small-scale or remote communities that may lack access to centralized fossil fuel energy grids.


There are a few key challenges associated with sourcing and utilizing biomass in Australia:

Upfront costs are one major challenge. Converting biomass into usable energy requires specialized equipment and facilities, which can involve high capital expenditures. Constructing a biomass power plant or retrofitting an existing facility to use biomass carries significant upfront costs.

Sourcing reliable and cost-effective feedstocks is another challenge. Biomass facilities rely on a steady supply of biomass fuels like wood chips, agricultural residues, or waste materials. However, sourcing sufficient volumes of biomass fuels at an affordable price can be difficult in Australia due to factors like drought and competition from other uses.

There is also competition with other uses for biomass feedstocks. For example, wood residues may also be needed for making paper or wood products. Agricultural residues could be used for animal feed or left on the fields to support soil nutrition. This competition drives up prices for biomass feedstocks.

Government Policy

The Australian government has implemented policies to encourage the development of biomass energy. A key policy is the Renewable Energy Target (RET), which mandates that 33,000 gigawatt-hours of Australia’s electricity comes from renewable sources like biomass by 2020 [1]. The RET has driven significant investment in renewable energy projects, including biomass.

The government also provides grants and incentives for biomass projects. For example, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has provided millions in funding for bioenergy research and demonstration projects [2]. There are also state-level programs that support bioenergy.

Looking ahead, the government aims to encourage sustainable biomass energy while protecting native forests. In late 2022, Australia excluded wood pellets made from native forest biomass from counting as renewable energy under the RET [3]. The government may introduce additional sustainability criteria for biomass projects to qualify for incentives.

Future Outlook

The future for biomass in Australia looks promising, with projections for significant growth according to Australia’s Bioenergy Roadmap ( Advanced biofuels from biomass have significant potential to displace fossil fuel imports and provide cleaner energy options.

Projections estimate bioenergy could contribute between 8-26% of Australia’s primary energy by 2050. Growth depends on supportive policies and increased research and development into advanced biofuels (

There are major opportunities for Australia to develop advanced biofuels from biomass feedstocks and agricultural waste. Drop-in biofuels are promising to decarbonize segments like aviation, shipping and long-haul transport. Government support for pilot projects is aiming to scale up advanced biofuel production and exports.

With high biomass potential, Australia could become a leading exporter of bioenergy products. Sustainably produced woody biomass and biofuels provide growing export opportunities to Asia. Partnerships with regional neighbors are being pursued to develop integrated biofuel supply chains and meet demand (


Biomass has emerged as a promising renewable energy source for Australia as the country transitions towards a low-carbon economy. While biomass currently makes up a small portion of Australia’s energy mix, there is significant potential for growth given the country’s abundant biomass resources from agricultural and forestry residues.

Key biomass projects underway are demonstrating the viability of biomass power generation, heat production, and biofuel production at commercial scales. With further technology improvements and declining costs, biomass could play an increasingly important role in Australia’s future energy system by providing renewable baseload power, energy storage, and emissions reductions across the electricity, heating, and transport sectors.

Realizing the full potential of biomass energy in Australia will require conducive government policies such as the Renewable Energy Target as well as incentives for investment in new biomass facilities and infrastructure. Additionally, work is needed to address logistical challenges around biomass supply chains and storage. Overall, biomass has the opportunity to assist Australia in cost-effectively achieving its renewable energy and carbon reduction goals.

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