EIA revises biomass forecast in short-term outlook

By Erin Voegele | November 17, 2015

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has released the November edition of its Short-Term Energy Outlook, predicting total renewables used in the electric power sector will decrease by 2 percent this year. Hydropower generation is expected to decrease by 8.6 percent, while nonhydropower renewables are expected to increase by 4.4 percent.

According to the EIA, U.S. heating degree days are expected to be about 8 percent lower this winter when compared with last year, resulting in a drop in winter retail sales of electricity to the residential sector.

The U.S. is expected to generation 115,000 MWh per day of electricity from wood biomass this year, increasing to 116,000 MWh per day next year. Electricity generation from waste biomass is also expected to increase, from 58,000 MWh per day this year, to 60,000 MWh per day in 2016.

The electric power sector is expected to consume 0.244 quadrillion Btu (quad) of wood biomass this year, increasing to 0.250 quad next year. The sector is also expected to increase its consumption of waste biomass, from 0.260 quad in 2015 to 0.270 quad in 2016.

The industrial sector is expected to consume 1.273 quad of wood biomass and 0.188 quad of waste biomass this year. Next year, the sector is expected to consume only 1.236 quad of wood biomass along with 0.189 quad of waste biomass.

The commercial sector is expected to consume 0.076 quad of biomass this year, increasing slightly to 0.077 quad in 2016. The sector is also expected to consume 0.045 quad of waste biomass this year, falling to 0.043 quad next year.

The residential sector is expected to consume 0.447 quad of wood biomass this year, falling to 0.418 quad next year.

During the 2015-’16 winter, the EIA predicts more than 2.15 million U.S. households will use wood as a primary heating fuel, up 1.3 percent from the prior winter. Approximately 596,000 homes in the Northeast, 635,000 homes in the Midwest, 627,000 homes in the South and 757,000 homes in the West are expected to use wood as a primary heating fuel this winter. The use of primary wood heat in the Northeast is expected to grow by 2.6 percent this winter. The number of homes using wood as a primary heating source is also expected to increase in the Midwest and South, by 0.8 percent and 2.4 percent respectively. However, the use of wood as a primary heating fuel is expected to decrease by 0.3 percent in the South this winter.

The EIA’s most recent Electric Power Monthly report, published in late October, indicates 28.2 MW of biomass power capacity was added in the U.S. during August, bringing the U.S. total to 13,673.3 MW. The increase included 27.2 MW of wood biomass capacity and 1 MW of landfill gas capacity. The EIA predicts the U.S. will add an additional 111 MW of biomass capacity over the next 12 months, including 44.6 MW of wood biomass capacity, 40.1 MW of landfill gas capacity and 26.3 MW of capacity from other waste biomass sources.