Biomass, from the energy perspective, is a source of primary energy consisting of all substances of vegetal and/or animal origin, which are biodegradable and the use of which for energy purposes is not restricted by law.

Biomass is primarily used for the production of heat and biofuels. In Poland, a dynamic increase in the use of biomass for electricity generation may be observed, due to the adopted support schemes promoting electricity generation from renewable sources.

The definition of biomass according to the national and EU law

  • Directive 2009/28/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council
    • biomass - the biodegradable fraction of products, waste and residues of biological origin from agriculture (including vegetal and animal substances), forestry and related industries including fisheries and aquaculture, as well as the biodegradable fraction of industrial and municipal waste.
    • bioliquids (secondary fuel) - liquid fuel for energy purposes other than for transport, including electricity and heating and cooling, produced from biomass.
  • Regulation (EC) No 1099/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council
    • solid biomass - covers organic, non-fossil material of biological origin which may be used as fuel for heat production or electricity generation, including wood, crops, biodegradable solid waste and other.
  • The Act of 25th August 2006 on Biocomponents and Liquid Biofuels (Polish Journal of Laws of 2006, No 169 item 1199)
    • biomass – solid or liquid biodegradable substances of vegetal or animal origin, obtained from products, waste and remains from agriculture and forestry, industries processing their products as well as biodegradable fractions of other waste, in particular agricultural raw materials;
  • The Act of 27th April 2001 on waste (Polish Journal of Laws of 2007, No 39, item 251)
    • biomass – waste subject to aerobic and anaerobic digestion with the participation of microorganisms.
  • Regulation of the Minister of Economy of 14th August 2008 (Polish Journal of Laws of 28 August 2008 Nr 156, item 969 as amended)
    • biomass – solid or liquid biodegradable substances of vegetal or animal origin, obtained from products, waste and remains from agriculture and forestry, and industries processing their products as well as biodegradable fractions of other waste and grains of cereals not meeting the quality requirements for cereals accepted for intervention, stipulated in Article 4 of the Commission Regulation (EC) No 687/2008 of 18th July 2008 establishing procedures for the taking-over of cereals by intervention agencies or paying agencies and laying down methods of analysis for determining the quality of cereals (OJ EU L 192 of 19.07.2008, p. 20) and grains of cereals not subject to intervention.

The resources and utilisation of biomass for energy purposes
The resources of biomass for energy purposes in Poland, estimated in different scenarios and strategic documents, are greater than those of all other renewable sources. The utilisation of biomass in comparison to other renewable sources is also dominant in all energy sectors:

  • In the electrical power sector, the energy produced from biomass constitutes approx. 60% of energy produced from renewable sources. The biggest part of energy from biomass is generated with the use of co-combustion processes in high-capacity condensing boilers.
  • In the heating and cooling sector, heat energy from biomass constitutes approx. 95% of energy produced from renewable sources. Heat energy is produced mainly by distributed, small and medium-capacity objects which are not connected to the heat distribution network.
  • In the transport sector approx. 100% renewable energy is produced from biomass. These are first generation biofuels, including bioethanol and biodiesel.

Taking into account current technology trends using biomass for energy purposes (relatively low conversion efficiency), one might suppose that in the future, the application of co-generation (production of electric and heat energy in one process) and trigeneration (producing electric, heat and cooling energy in one process) on a larger scale may significantly improve the management of biomass resources in Poland and contribute to a large extent to the achievement of national and Community targets of the climate and energy policy.

The biomass today may be used for energy purposes in the following processes:

  • direct combustion of solid biomass (primary fuel)
    • solid dry waste
      • pellets
      • briquettes
      • sawdust
      • shavings
      • orchard prunings
      • stumpwood
    • firewood and waste wood from forests, including branches from forest thinning and sanitation felling
    • purpose-grown energy crops
      • energy willow
      • Virginia mallow
      • multiflora rose 
      • straw
      • hay
      • other
  • gasification of biomass and combustion of gaseous biofuels in order to produce electric and/or heat energy (biogas, syngas – secondary fuel)
    • purpose-grown energy crops
      • maize (silage)
      • grass (soilage/silage)
      • clover (soilage/silage)
      • sorghum (silage)
      • sugar beet (silage)
      • other
    • agricultural waste
      • leaves
      • waste from growing plants and vegetables
      • manure and droppings
      • liquid manure
    • food processing waste
      • fermented residue
      • whey
      • slaughter waste
      • restaurant waste
      • pulp and molasses
      • other
    • biodegradable waste and biodegradable fractions of waste
      • sewage residue
      • landfill waste
      • municipal waste
    • woodchips
  • conversion into liquid fuels and utilization for the production of electric and/or heat energy (bioliquids – secondary fuel)
    • vegetable oils
  • gasification of biomass and gas fuel for transport purposes (biogas-CNG) – types of biomass as above
  • conversion into biofuels and utilization in transport
    • sugar beet
    • sugar cane
    • maize
    • wheat
    • straw or wood
    • rape
    • soya
    • palm oil
    • waste of organic origin.

The real economic potential of biomass in Poland is estimated at 600,168 TJ in 2020, and the market potential at 533,118 TJ (data of the Institute for Renewable Energy – Possibilities of using RES in Poland until 2020). The market potential consists of the following types of biomass:

  • solid waste 149,338 TJ
  • wet waste (to be used for biogas) 72,609 TJ
  • firewood 24,452 TJ
  • energy crops 286,718 TJ

At present, the following amounts of biomass for energy purposes are obtained in Poland (data of the Polish Central Statistical Office for 2009):

  • 217 302 TJ (solid biomass)
  • 17 847 TJ (liquid biofuels)
  • 4 104 TJ (biogas)
  • 29 TJ (municipal waste).

In Poland, part of biomass comes from abroad. According to the estimates of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in 2009 approx. 800 thousand tonnes of biomass were imported to Poland for energy purposes from third countries. In 2010 it amounted to approx. 1.5 million tonnes. In the opinion of the Polish Chamber of Commerce for Renewable Energy, the transport of biomass for energy purposes over considerable distances (over 50-100 km) has nothing to do with sustainable development.

Barriers to using biomass in Poland

  • No local markets of energy biomass
  • No subsidies for purpose-grown energy crops
  • No clear limitations for the co-combustion of biomass in high capacity coal boilers
  • No simple support scheme for the common application of individual biomass installations (small thermal power stations as well as combined heat and power stations)
  • Unpredictability of the current support scheme for electricity from renewable sources and from co-generation in the long-term perspective going beyond 2017 (in the case of RES) and beyond 2012 (in the case of CHP).