Is the development of energy production from non-woody biomass a success story? In order to answer this question, the researchers conducting the Panorama Biomass study assess what has been accomplished so far, analyze the latest developments and offer suggestions for a more effective exploitation of biomass as a source of energy.
A cursory examination would suggest that the practice of producing energy from non-woody biomass during the past ten years has been a success story. The number of production facilities has increased continuously along with the installed capacity and total energy production of the individual facilities. Moreover, the volume of gas fed into the grid has grown almost exponentially.
Biomass accounts for only 0.5 percent of total energy consumption
Closer examination, however, suggests that development in the new industry is not as positive as it may seem. Despite the introduction of feed-in tariffs for renewable energy that are based on the cost of production, growth has been weaker than hoped. Many projects have been cancelled on account of extraneous circumstances or lack of profitability. Production of liquid biofuels has fallen by 50 percent in the last few years. The potential in the agriculture sector and other industries is only partially being exploited. Altogether, the energy produced from non-woody biomass in 2015 (electricity, heat, fuels) accounted for only 0.5 percent of total energy consumption in Switzerland.
There is potential for expanding the role of energy from biomass
According to estimates in the Swiss government’s planning report (Energy Perspectives 2050), the potential for expanding energy production from non-woody biomass by 2050 amounts to 7.5 TWh, including 1.9 TWh of power and 5.6 TWh of other types of energy (heat, fuels). Moreover, industry representatives are certain there is potential for expanding the role of biomass. However, just how significant the potential is and whether it can be exploited in the foreseeable future if the rate of development continues at its current pace or drops is less clear. Other questions need answers as well. What is the status of the industry today? What new challenges and opportunities have emerged? What might future development look like? And how should stakeholders in the industry position themselves for the future?
Analyzing the past to derive approaches for the future
EBP examined these questions on behalf of Biomasse Suisse and the Swiss Federal Office of Energy. Based on our analysis of various time series, numerous discussions with industry representatives and participation at a prominent industry workshop, we have outlined and explained all previous developments. We have also examined current and anticipated developments. Based on our findings, we have developed strategies and measures to enable industry stakeholders to better exploit the potential of biomass.