Biomass is organic material that may be used as fuel. Burning organic material, such as wood, is the oldest means humans have to generate heat and power. In rural parts of many developing countries, firewood and charcoal remain essential for heating, cooking and local industry.
Recent technological advances have increased the use of biomass in many countries. Wood pellets are increasingly used to fire large power stations in Europe, South Korea and Japan, replacing coal in response to climate policies and renewables targets. This additional demand has driven growth in global pellet production from two million tonnes in 2000 to around 30 million tonnes in 2016. Further rapid growth is forecast.
Some NGOs are sceptical about biomass. Influential NGOs claim large-scale biomass power generation is bad for the climate and for forests. The industry argues that biomass is a reliable renewable energy source, with much lower sulphur and nitrogen oxide emissions – and that pellets are sourced both from ‘sustainable’ forestry operations and by using waste wood that would otherwise decompose or be burned.
TFT began work on biomass in 2016 to support moving the industry towards responsible and transparent wood sourcing, and to foster constructive dialogue with NGOs and other stakeholders.