The many uses of biomass
It can be used directly, such as wood burning for heating and cooking.
Or indirectly, by converting it into a liquid or gaseous fuel – ethanol from sugar cane, biodiesel from palm oil, or biogas from animal waste.
Renewable energyUnlike oil, coal and gas, bioenergy is a renewable energy made out of biological material that can be harvested again and again.
Traditional biomass includes fuel wood and charcoal for domestic use, rice husks, other plant residues and animal dung. These resources are mostly used on a small-scale, particularly in developing countries.
Modern biomass usually involves large-scale uses and is a substitute for conventional fossil fuels. This includes forest wood and agricultural residues, urban waste, and biogas and biofuels from energy crops, such as plant oils and plants containing starch and sugar.
Is it sustainable?
But, bioenergy production can also have significant negative environmental and social impacts.
Depending on which crops are produced, bioenergy developments can lead to deforestation, biodiversity loss, soil erosion, excessive water use, land use conflicts, food shortages and staple food crop price spikes.
By using modern and efficient technologies, biomass can offer a source of clean energy that can gradually replace coal and other fossil fuels, bringing environmental benefits, supporting rural development and creating new
WWF is working with partners around the world to influence bioenergy policies, as well as with private sectors and their supply chains – from producers, manufacturers and processors to buyers, retailers and investors – to transform and drive entire commodity markets including bioenergy, towards greater sustainability.
- Substituting fossil fuel use with a CO2-neutral alternative
- Reducing emissions of atmospheric pollutants, like sulphur
- Protecting soil & watersheds
- Increasing or maintaining biodiversity