1000+ biomass plants in pipeline

THE continuing trend of countries subsidising renewable energy will result in the construction of over 1000 biomass power plants within the next 10 years, says a major study by ecoprog GmbH.

Staff Reporter

The German consultant and market analyst's fifth Biomass to Power study is the most extensive of its kind in the world and includes an analysis of existing plants by country, as well as specific data on some 3350 treatment lines in more than 2700 biomass power plants and 350 biomass co-incinerators worldwide.

Electricity generation from solid biomass continues to increase globally and, in 2013, about 2800 operational power plants were incinerating only biomass or very large proportions of this fuel. These plants had an electricity generation capacity of about 42GWel.

According to the report, approximately 170 new power plants with an electricity generation capacity of around 3.6GWel will be constructed by the end of the year.

The subsidisation of renewable energy will remain the most important market factor for the development of electricity generation from biomass. Until early 2014, around 140 countries had introduced policies around subsidies.

Most of these countries also had schemes for electricity generation from solid biomass. For instance, Vietnam introduced a feed-in tariff for biomass electricity a few months ago.

Ecoprog says about 40 countries throughout the world provide similar compensation while other countries have different support schemes.

The report pointed to Columbia, which recently reduced the turnover tax on biomass electricity as well as Mexico, which has facilitated access to the grid for this type of electricity.

Meanwhile, Europe will remain the largest market for electricity generation from solid biomass in the 10 years to come.

In late 2013, Europe had about 1200 active biomass power plants, a number ecoprog said would increase to approximately 1750 by late 2023.

The European market however, is very fragmented and preconditions for investments differ significantly in the individual countries.

Whereas more plants than ever are being built in Great Britain and France, Spain, Latvia and the Czech Republic have reduced or even stopped their subsidisation models.

Germany still grants, by international comparison, high subsidies but the system has lost most of its incentives as all favourable locations have been developed for years.

Outside of Europe

When considering the rest of the world, China, India, Brazil and the US are the most important markets at present, according to ecoprog.

Asia and South America currently have the most dynamic markets for biomass power plants as these regions have many undeveloped but favourable locations, used by the sugar, rice and wood industries.

Additionally, low subsidies are enough to significantly increase the number of projects in countries such as Indonesia or the Philippines, even though they will not realise all their development plans in the years to come.

The market for electricity generation from biomass is organised regionally in many cases and industries with a strong affinity for biomass, such as the paper or sugar industries, remain the most important clients, with the energy industry ranking second.

Many plant manufacturers also have a regional focus and there are only a few global players.

The regional strengths and weaknesses of the individual technology providers often reflect the respective design of the subsidisation schemes, for instance when it comes to plant sizes or fuels.

Brazil, for example, has providers focusing on incinerating sugar cane while the support of small-scale plants in Austria has resulted in a larger number of plant manufacturers in this segment.

At present, international demand has led to globalised competition and in light of a growing number of saturated markets within continents, pressure to globalise businesses is especially strong for European plant manufacturers which have the largest share of the world market.

That said, however, more Chinese suppliers are expected to enter foreign markets as well.

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