A range of biomass power generation technologies are now mature and represent competitive power generation options wherever low-cost agricultural or forestry waste is available. In addition, new technologies are emerging that show significant potential for further cost reductions.
Secure, long-term supplies of low-cost, sustainably sourced feedstocks are critical to the economics of biomass power plants. Feedstock costs can be zero for some wastes, including those produced onsite at industrial installations such as black liquor at pulp and paper mills or bagasse at sugar mills, and their use can sometimes save on disposal costs. Bioenergy for power using sustainably sourced feedstocks, can provide dispatchable low-cost electricity and – in many circumstances – heat for industrial processes or heat networks. Regional or country weighted LCOE has ranged from USD 0.057/kWh in India and USD 0.062/kWh in China to USD 0.079/kWh in Europe and USD 0.097/kWh in North America over the last ten years, although if the heat is sold these values would be lower.
Individual projects typically generate electricity that costs between USD 0.030 and USD 0.140/kWh; but higher values exist – up to USD 0.250/kWh – particularly for waste incineration projects in the OECD where the primary purpose of the process is not electricity generation, but waste disposal.
Many of the higher cost projects in Europe and North America using municipal solid waste as a feedstock rely on technologies with higher capital costs, as more expensive technologies are used to ensure local pollutant emissions are reduced to acceptable levels.