Who Is The World Leader In Biomass Energy?

Biomass energy is a renewable energy source derived from organic matter such as plants, agricultural waste, and forest residues. It is considered a renewable energy because the organic materials used to generate biomass energy can be replenished over a short period of time (1). With growing concerns over climate change and energy security, biomass energy has emerged as an important source of renewable energy. Global demand for renewable energy is rising rapidly, with biomass accounting for nearly 55% of total renewable energy supply in 2022 (2). Biomass energy provides countries with greater energy self-sufficiency and reduces dependence on fossil fuels. It also has the potential to lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuels.

(1) https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/

(2) https://www.iea.org/energy-system/renewables/bioenergy

What is Biomass Energy?

Biomass energy is energy derived from organic matter, such as plants and plant-based waste. It utilizes the stored energy in organic materials to generate renewable power. Some examples of biomass sources are wood, crops, manure, and municipal solid waste (EIA).

Biomass can be converted into liquid biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel, biogas like methane, and solid biomass like wood pellets. These biomass energy sources can provide renewable alternatives to fossil fuels for electricity generation, transportation, and heating (National Geographic).

Overall, biomass energy uses organic matter that has absorbed sunlight in the form of chemical energy. It converts this stored chemical energy into usable heat, electricity, and fuel.

Benefits of Biomass

Biomass energy offers several key benefits that make it an attractive renewable energy source:

It’s renewable – Biomass is considered a renewable energy source because the materials used to create biomass energy can be regrown over relatively short periods of time compared to fossil fuels, which take millions of years to form. As long as plants are replanted as fast as they are used, biomass will not run out (source).

Reduces landfill waste – Many types of biomass waste can be used for energy production, including agricultural residues, wood waste from logging and paper mills, and urban wood waste. This helps reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills (source).

Creates jobs – The biomass energy industry directly and indirectly employs hundreds of thousands of people through planting, growing, harvesting, collecting, transporting, and processing biomass materials. Converting biomass to energy creates skilled jobs in engineering, project development, construction, and facility operations (source).

Can be carbon neutral – Biomass emits carbon dioxide when burned, but if replacement crops are grown as fast as biomass is burned, there is no net increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. This makes biomass a carbon neutral energy source (source).

Challenges of Biomass

While biomass energy provides some benefits, it also comes with some challenges. According to EUBIA, one major challenge is that biomass energy can be expensive compared to fossil fuels. The infrastructure and technology needed to harvest, process, and convert biomass into energy requires major upfront costs. Additionally, transporting bulky biomass material can be costly.

Biomass energy also has the potential to cause pollution if not managed properly, according to Carbon Collective. Burning biomass inefficiently or improperly can release particulates, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and other pollutants into the air. There are also concerns that removing too much agricultural residue from fields for biomass could deplete soil fertility over time.

Finally, large-scale biomass energy requires a significant amount of land to grow the fuel sources, notes LinkedIn. Heavy reliance on biomass could mean less land available for food production or conservation. Careful planning is needed to ensure biomass production is sustainable and does not compete with other land uses.

Top Countries Using Biomass

Some of the top countries utilizing biomass for energy production include the United States, Germany, Brazil, and China.[1] These leading nations have invested heavily in biomass resources to transition away from fossil fuels and meet renewable energy goals.

germany has become the global leader in biomass energy production through extensive use of biogas and incentives for bioenergy.

The United States has over 16 gigawatts of installed biomass power capacity, ranking 3rd globally behind China and Brazil.[2] Biomass accounts for about 1.5% of total U.S. electricity generation. The country has benefitted from substantial forestry resources that provide a steady supply of feedstocks.

Germany possessed 8 gigawatts of biomass capacity in 2020, relying on the resource for 8% of its total electricity.[3] The transition to renewables in Germany, known as the Energiewende, has strongly promoted biomass growth through policy incentives. Municipal solid waste is also widely utilized as an energy source.

With 16 gigawatts of biomass power capacity, Brazil has become a leader in bioelectricity generation.[3] As the world’s largest sugarcane ethanol producer, the country possesses unique biomass resources and infrastructure. Bagasse, a byproduct of sugarcane processing, provides fuel for biomass power plants.

China far surpasses other nations with over 25 gigawatts of biomass power capacity as of 2020.[3] The country has grown its bioenergy sector through investments in agricultural waste power plants that use feedstocks like rice husks and straw. China aims to further expand biomass utilization under national renewable energy targets.

Germany’s Leadership

Germany is the global leader in biomass energy use and production. According to the Agency for Renewable Resources (FNR), Germany generated 130.9 terawatt hours (TWh) of energy from biomass in 2019, which accounted for 8.4% of Germany’s total primary energy consumption that year (1). Biomass has played an integral role in Germany’s transition towards renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Germany’s biomass strategy focused heavily on biogas from anaerobic digestion. Biogas is produced by the bacterial fermentation of biomass feedstock and is approximately 50-70% methane. As of 2015, Germany had over 8,900 biogas plants, up from just 390 plants in 1990 (2).

Several policies helped drive the growth of biogas and biomass energy in Germany. The Renewable Energy Sources Act of 2000 provided guaranteed feed-in tariffs for electricity generated from biomass and biogas. This incentivized investment into biomass plants. The Act was revised multiple times to further promote bioenergy. The Biomass Ordinance of 2001 set sustainability criteria for bioenergy production (3).

In addition to biogas, Germany uses solid biomass like wood pellets and wood chips for heating. Wood pellet heating systems increased from 80,000 in 2006 to 650,000 in 2016 (4). The bioenergy sector employed 166,000 people in Germany as of 2018.

Germany aims to continue expanding its use of sustainable bioenergy. The government has set a target for bioenergy to provide 8-10% of Germany’s gross final energy consumption by 2030 (5).


(1) https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/bioenergy-germany-facts-and-figures-development-support-and-investment

(2) https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/bioenergy-germany-facts-and-figures-development-support-and-investment

(3) https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/bioenergy-germany-facts-and-figures-development-support-and-investment

(4) https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/bioenergy-germany-facts-and-figures-development-support-and-investment

(5) https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/bioenergy-germany-facts-and-figures-development-support-and-investment

Germany’s Transition to Renewables

Germany has been a leader in transitioning to renewable energy through a policy initiative known as the Energiewende. Energiewende, which translates to “energy transition,” aims to reduce Germany’s reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power while increasing renewable energy usage (Clean Energy Wire, 2022).

A key aspect of Germany’s Energiewende has been a rapid growth in biomass energy production. According to the Clean Energy Wire (2022), biomass accounted for 8.3% of Germany’s primary energy consumption in 2020. This made biomass the fourth largest contributor to Germany’s energy mix behind oil, natural gas, and coal. The use of biomass for heating and power generation has increased in Germany due to financial incentives for renewable energy production. Biomass offers the advantages of being storable and able to produce energy on demand, unlike intermittent sources like wind and solar power.

While biomass has grown as part of Germany’s Energiewende, there are also concerns around its sustainability and emissions. Critics argue that burning biomass releases CO2 just like fossil fuels. There are also sustainability issues around the sources of biomass material. However, supporters argue biomass can be carbon neutral if done responsibly and helps provide renewable baseload power generation capacity (Clean Energy Wire, 2022). Germany aims to continue increasing its share of renewable energy to at least 80% of electricity consumption by 2050, with biomass likely remaining a key contributor.

Future Outlook

The global outlook for biomass energy is strong, with projections of continued growth over the coming decades. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), bioenergy is projected to account for 30% of the growth in renewable energy production between 2018-2023 (source). IRENA estimates that modern bioenergy could provide around 125 exajoules (EJ) by 2050, up from 50 EJ today.

Germany is expected to continue expanding its use of biomass energy in line with its Energiewende goals. The country aims to have renewables make up 65% of gross final energy consumption by 2030. Biomass is projected to account for 8-10% of final energy consumption under Germany’s energy transition plans (source). Key growth areas include biomass-based heating and combined heat and power (CHP) systems.

Moving forward, Germany will focus on optimizing biomass supply chains, developing sustainable certification standards, and investing in next-generation bioenergy technologies to maximize efficiency and minimize environmental impacts. The future of biomass in Germany looks bright, as the country leverages bioenergy to continue its transition to a low-carbon economy.

Other Notable Countries

While Germany leads the world in biomass energy use, there are several other major users of this renewable resource worth mentioning. Brazil and China have very high capacities of biomass power generation. As of 2019, Brazil had 16,537 MW of installed biomass power capacity, using sugarcane bagasse and other agricultural wastes as feedstock. China had 13,384 MW of biomass power capacity as of 2020, utilizing crop residues and forestry wastes. The United States is also a major biomass energy producer, with 17,783 MW of capacity in 2020, making use of forest product industry wastes as well as dedicated energy crops.

Countries like India, Japan, and the UK also have over 1,000 MW of biomass power capacity each. Globally, biomass continues to play an important role in the transition to renewable energy, especially in developing countries that have abundant agricultural or forestry resources to leverage.


In conclusion, Germany is the clear global leader in biomass energy use. Biomass provides over 9% of Germany’s total energy supply, far exceeding other major countries. Germany has made a successful transition to renewable energy thanks to biomass and other renewables like solar and wind.

The key benefits of biomass energy are that it provides a renewable, low-carbon energy source and supports rural economies through the use of forestry and agricultural waste products. However, challenges remain around ensuring a sustainable biomass supply chain and minimizing air pollution from biomass facilities.

Going forward, Germany is well positioned to continue expanding its renewable energy mix, with biomass playing an important role. Other countries can look to Germany as an example of how to successfully integrate biomass and other renewables at scale to transition away from fossil fuels and toward a clean energy future.

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