Combustion of biomass for energy production has received much attention, but uncertainty and controversy surround the net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the activity. This analysis identifies trends in the scientific literature on the GHG emissions intensity of biomass combustion and considers them in the hypothetical repowering of a coal plant in Albany, Georgia. It indicates that incremental differences are generated by different feedstock, transportation, and disposal assumptions but that these differences are greatly outweighed by general accounting approaches, system boundaries, and GHG neutrality assumptions, changes in any of which can yield widely diverging results. Clear, transparent, and standardized assessment processes are therefore critical if studies of various situations are to be comparable and uncertainty about the true GHG effects of biomass combustion is to be reduced.
Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions