EIA reports illustrate bioenergy growth

By Erin Voegele | March 10, 2015

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has released the March issue of its Short-Term Energy Outlook, forecasting that total renewables used for electricity and heat generation will grow by 2.9 percent this year. Conventional hydropower generation is expected to increase by 6 percent, with nonhydropower renewables generation increasing by 1.4 percent. Next year, total renewables consumption for electric power and heat generation is expected to increase by 1.8 percent, with a 3.6 percent decline in hydropower and a 4.6 percent increase in nonhydropower renewables.

According to the EIA, wood biomass is expected to generate 118,000 MWh of electricity per day in the U.S. this year, increasing to 120,000 MWh per day in 2016. Waste biomass is expected to generate an additional 59,000 MWh per day this year, with that level maintained in 2016.

The electric power sector is expected to consume 0.25 quadrillion Btu (quad) of wood this year, increasing to nearly 0.26 quad next year. The sector is also expected to consume 0.26 quad of waste biomass this year, increasing slightly next year.

The EIA forecasts the industrial sector will consume more than 1.16 quad of waste biomass and nearly 0.17 quad of waste biomass this year. Next year, the sector is expected to consume slightly less wood biomass and slightly more waste biomass.

The commercial sector is expected to consume 0.07 quad of wood biomass this year, increasing slightly next year. Waste biomass consumption is expected to reach nearly 0.05 quad this year, with that level maintained in 2016.

The residential sector is expected to consume 0.57 quad of wood biomass this year, with that level maintained into next year.

Together, all U.S. sectors are expected to consume 2.06 quad of wood biomass this year, increasing slightly next year. Waste biomass consumption is expected to be approximately 0.48 quad this year, with a slight increase forecasted for 2016.

Earlier this month, the EIA released the February issue of its Electric Power Monthly report, which includes data through December 2014. That report shows the U.S. generated 43.05 million MWh of electricity from wood and wood-derived fuels last year, up 7.6 percent from 2013. Electric utilities generated 2.82 million MWh from wood and wood-derived fuels, up from 2.53 million MWh in 2013. Independent power producers generated 12.05 million MWh from wood fuels, up from 9.77 million MWh in 2013. In addition, the commercial sector generated 66,000 MWh from wood fuels, up from 34,000 MWh in 2013, while the industrial sector generated 28.12 million MWh from wood fuels, up from 27.69 million MWh in 2013.

The U.S. also generated 21.27 million MWh from other forms of biomass last year, up 2.1 percent from 2013. This includes 1.46 million MWh for electric utilities, down from 1.5 million MWh in 2013; 15.88 million MWh by independent power producers, up from 15.42 million MWh in 2013; 2.61 million MWh in the commercial sector, up from 2.57 million MWh; and 1.32 million MWh in the industrial sector, down from 1.35 million MWh.

The U.S. generated 5.59 million MWh of electricity from biomass in December, up 2.6 percent from the same month of 2013. Top biomass power producing states included California with 587,000 MWh, Florida with 426,000 MWh and Georgia with 376,000 MWh. 

As of the close of 2014, the EIA indicated the U.S. had 13,447.1 MW of in-service biomass capacity, including 8,330.3 MW from wood and wood waste, 2,069.1 MW from landfill gas, 2,230.7 MW from municipal solid waste, and 817 MW from other waste biomass. Based on reports made to the EIA, the administration said an additional 211.1 MW of biomass capacity is currently expected to come online this year.