So what is the importance of biomass energy?

I’ve recently listened to the webinar Solar Fuel – Natural and Artificial Photosynthesis by James Barber, Imperial college organised by UKERC (UK Energy Research Council) National Energy Research Network (NERN) / EG&S (Energy Generation and Supply) KTN (Knowledge Transfer Network). It was a fascinating look at artificial photosynthesis (Ps.), but here are a few points which were inspired by the comments on natural Ps. and it’s contribution to the energy question.

– Scale of current use

In terms of global energy consumption, out of 14 TW of energy currently, 1.21 TW is from biomass, 4.52 is oil and 0.286 is renewables. In terms of number of people using biomass energy, just one example, for cooking and heating, over a third of humanity, 2.4 billion people burn biomass (Warwick & Doig 2004)

– Potential for sequestering C

Almost half of the C which we burn goes into the atmosphere, and half is sequestered through Ps – a photochemical process which converts hydrogen and oxygen and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into biomass. Although the global average conversion of light to energy is 0.2%, the maximum efficiency is 4.5%.
Where biochar is a product from energy generation from biomass, this conversion of C can be subsequently stored in soils.

Conversely, burning of biomass leads to black carbon (not biochar) particulate matter which contributes to the global warming effect, although this warming effect may be less than that of black carbon from industrial fossil fuel burning (Grieshop et al 2009).

– Large scale production

Bioenergy crops are widespread, although the availability of land for expansion is a question. But there is potential for energy production in units which can utilise waste products including rice husks, and also number of recent developments in smaller scale technologies which can also burn rice husks. This is known as a second generation biofuel, and does not compete with food production.


Grieshop, A.P., Reynolds, C.C.O., Kandlikar, M. and Dowlatabadi, H. 2009. A black-carbon mitigation wedge. Nature Geoscience. Vol 2. August 2009.

Warwick, H. & Doig, A. (2004). Smoke – the Killer in the Kitchen. Indoor Air Pollution in Developing Countries. Practical Action, ITDG.

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One Response to “So what is the importance of biomass energy?”

  1. Biomass Energy | Green Eco Path Says:

    […] So what is the importance of biomass energy? « Biocharm Project In terms of global energy consumption, out of 14 TW of energy currently, 1.21 TW is from biomass, 4.52 is oil and 0.286 is renewables. In terms of number of people using biomass energy, just one example, for cooking and heating, … https://biocharm.wordpress.com/ — Tue, 20 Jul 2010 21:26:18 -0700 […]

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