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Biomass Co-firing: Technology brief

This brief focuses on biomass co-firing as a transition option towards a completely carbon-free power sector.


Biomass co-firing offers enormous potential to reduce carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants. Biomass can replace between 20% and 50% of the coal used in thermal power generation, according to this technology brief. However, the net reduction of emissions and other pollutants on the origin and supply chain of biomass feedstock.

Incentives and regulations to boost the share of renewable electricity tend to encourage biomass co-firing, as has been seen in the several European countries and the United States. The United Nations-backed Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) recognises biomass co-firing as a way to reduce emissions in developing countries. China and India, for example, have large biomass availability as well as rapid growth in coal-fired capacity. 

To exploit co-firing potential without adverse environmental impact, emerging economies need technology and policy preparation. Sustainability indicators for bioenergy, including protection of soil and water resources, biodiversity, land allocation and tenure, and food prices, need to be integrated into policy measures.

This brief focuses on three main aspects of biomass co-firing development:

  • Process and technology status;
  • Performance and costs;
  • Sustainability, potential and barriers.
Successive technology briefs have highlighted a wide range of renewable energy solutions. Each brief outlines technical aspects, costs, market potential and barriers, combined with insights for policy makers on how to accelerate the transition to renewables.