China’s biomass potential

China has the potential to provide millions of people living in rural parts of the country with electricity, according to the report ‘Rural Biomass Energy 2020 in the People’s Republic of China’.

In order to fulfil its potential, however, China needs $60 billion (€48.8 billion) by 2020. 30 million residents who still use kerosene-fuelled lamps and firewood for heat and cooking could soon be using clean fuel and electricity.

76% of the $60 billion, the majority of which would come from the government and project financing, will go towards rural household beneficiaries. 20% will see an increased production of power and liquid fuel, while 4% will be put towards constructing biogas plants throughout the region. On top of this $60 billion CNY1.5 billion (€0.18 billion) will be used to fund R&D projects as well as demonstration and pilot plants.

China has now set itself a 2020 target, which requires 15% of the energy consumed to be renewable energy. To meet this target it will begin generating energy from a number of renewable sources, including animal waste, crop residues, municipal waste and sludge.

Energy from biomass has not progressed as quickly as other forms of energy in China, including wind, solar and hydropower, as funding and technological constraints have held back advancements. Klaus Gerhaeusser of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) explains: ‘The potential of biomass energy in the PRC is huge but the barriers to realising this potential are likewise significant and complex.’

So far incentives introduced by the government to boost renewable energy in rural areas are working on a small scale. This is backed up by figures stated in the report, showing that biomass energy produced in these areas is generated from household conversion projects.

The report states: ‘Through this process, new enabling policies, coordinated institutional capacity and effective investments made today mean PRC’s rural communities would enjoy cleaner energy, better environment and higher rural income by 2020.’