Energy from biomass Energy from biomass

Biomass - organic material of non-fossil origin, including organic waste - can be converted into bioenergy through combustion, either directly or via derived products. Around 64% of total primary energy production of renewable energy in the EU-28 in 2015 is generated this way.

Examples of derived products from waste streams include the conversion of waste oil into biodiesel, animal manure and organic household waste into biogas and plant or plant waste products into biofuel. The following materials can be used in the generation of bioenergy:

  • Wood and wood waste;
  • The organic part of municipal solid waste;
  • The organic part of industrial waste;
  • Sewage;
  • Manure;
  • Crop plants and plant by-products of food production.

Biomass, particularly woody biomass, can be directly combusted to generate heat and/or electricity.

Biogas, primarily methane and carbon dioxide, is produced through the bacterial decomposition of organic matter like sewage, manure, organic household waste and plant crops.

Biofuels are liquid fuels from a non-fossil biological origin and also represent a renewable energy resource. Biofuels can be divided into biogasoline and biodiesel depending on the material of origin used.

Since the organic plant matter has absorbed carbon dioxide as it grows, when it is finally burnt to generate bioenergy it releases a comparable amount of carbon back into the atmosphere.

However, agricultural biofuel production is in potential competition with agricultural food production. According the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), bioenergy crop production is rapidly increasing in the EU, and in 2011 used 13% of Europe’s agricultural land. The land demand of bioenergy crops can be contentious and needs to be balanced in the context of an overall sustainable approach to land management (see 'Land' sub-section under ‘Spatial resources’ section).

 

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Data sources Data sources

Data on primary production and gross inland consumption of biomass and renewable wastes for the EU countries, as well as data on electricity generated from renewable sources, can be found in Eurostat's database on energy statistics.

The EEA Report No 6/2013 on the "EU bioenergy potential from a resource efficiency perspective" reviews the implications of resource efficiency principles for developing EU bioenergy production.

Information on the production of renewable energy from agricultural sources (EU-15) is also delivered by the European Environment Agency.

Detailed information on a wide variety of data sources can be obtained via the Statistics explained page on "Renewable energy statistics" and on the page of the Directorate General for Energy dedicated to bioenergy.

International energy statistics about renewable energy resources are provided by the OECD and the International Energy Agency (IEA).