EIA's Annual Energy Outlook on Biomass Power

By Kolby Hoagland | January 03, 2014

With the new year, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) offers the early release of their energy production and consumption forecasts for the United States all the way to 2040 in the Annual Energy Outlook (AEO). Last year’s AEO predicted a sharp increase in the use of biomass fuel in cofire scenarios at coal fired generation plants. EIA assumed that state and federal emissions regulation would demand carbon emissions mitigation by cofiring biomass with coal. As can be seen in the graph below, EIA continues to predict a steady increase in cofiring of biomass based on current policy trajectories. The 2014 AEO forecast for cofiring is slightly delayed and smoother than 2013 but continues to project that cofiring will have the greatest influence on the growth of the biomass sector with an annual growth rate of 14.5%.

Cofiring Estimates 2013 to 2014

The 2014 AEO also forecasts growth of biomass use in non-grid connected, industry generated biomass power. Private industry currently possesses close to two times more biomass power generating capacity for its private use than the biomass power sector can put onto the grid. Industry’s production capacity for private use totaled 4.9 gigawatts in 2012, while grid-connected biomass power capacity rates in at 2.7 gigawatts. A number of companies in the paper and pulp industry along with other large wood and biomass industries produce all the electricity that they use onsite and do not put any of their capacity onto the grid. As the graph below indicates, the 2014 AEO forecasts further growth of private generation capacity of biomass power.  Non-grid connected biomass power generation has an annual growth rate of 2.9% while grid-connected biomass power’s growth rate is 0.9%. I will go out on limb and assume that the risk price spikes and purchasing electricity on the open market influences large corporations with access to biomass fuel to pursue private generation. 

Grid connect vs. not connected2