Electricity costs

Experience from California during the 1990s indicates that biomass plants were able to operate profitably when the wholesale cost of electricity was

Table 15.3 Biomass fuel costs

Brazil (northwest)

China (southwest)




Source: US Department of Energy (Oak Ridge National Laboratory).

$0.040/kWh; they did, however benefit from a subsidy of $0.015/kWh, suggesting that they could generate power for $0.055/kWh. More generally, a plant with an efficiency of around 23% could deliver power at $0.05/kWh provided the cost of the fuel was below $1/GJ, or well below the cost at which fuel will be available in the USA in the foreseeable future. However if the plant has an efficiency of 35%, the fuel cost could rise to $2.8/GJ. It should be possible to deliver an energy crop for this price in the USA today but the energy conversion efficiency required is only currently available with co-firing.

These estimates apply to the USA and even there they can only offer broad guidance. However it seems probable that co-firing could deliver power at a competitive price today in some parts of the world whereas dedicated biomass power plants will not be able to compete effectively without some form of incentive.

End notes

1 Energy Technology - The Next Steps, published by the EU Directorate General for Energy in December 1997.

2 World Energy Council, Survey of Energy Resources, Biomass, 2001.

3 Biopower Technical Assessment, State of the Industry and the Technology, Richard L. Bain, Wade P. Amos, Mark Downing and Robert L. Perlack (January 2003) (NREL/TP-510-33132).

4 Refer supra note 3.

5 Refer supra note 3.

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