Biomass and CHP

With 96% of the production, biomass is by far the largest source of renewable heating in Europe. However, nearly all of this is central production; only a fraction of this is produced by residential biomass burners. Nevertheless, because every modern central heating coupled biomass burner is equipped with a storage unit, biomass is the most important renewable storage market besides solar thermal.

Most biomass energy facilities are operated as combined heat and power (CHP) systems. For residential use, however, CHP is just being introduced to the market.

Both biomass burners and residential CHP units do not absolutely require storage to function. However, storage does provide some clear advantages. For both biomass burners and micro-CHP units, the storage reduces the number of times the system needs to be started and stopped, thus reducing the exhaust emissions and improving the user comfort, particularly for manually loaded systems.

The residential biomass and CHP market

The worldwide turnover of residential solid fuel biomass burners is estimated at around 800 million euro in 2006, with an annual growth of 7%. Europe is by far the largest market with a turnover of 500 million euro. Within Europe, the largest market by far is Poland, followed by Germany and the Czech Republic.

The European Commission aims to double the production of heat from biomass in 2010 (with respect to 1995), requiring a substantial increase in the sales of biomass installations. However, predicting the market growth for residential biomass is quite difficult, given that the increasing use of biomass-related crop production is causing some public debate. Some therefore regard this heating option as an uncertain source of renewable heating.

The residential biomass market is dominated by a huge number of small actors. For example, Austria has 37 manufacturers for pellet burners alone. In the last few years, conventional heating manufacturers have started selling biomass technology as well.

Residential CHP has just been introduced to the European market in 2008, the leading countries being the Netherlands and the UK. Introduction is expected soon in Germany, France and Belgium.

More information

This information is also available in an information leaflet on thermal energy storage for solar heating. More details can be found in one of the PREHEAT reports, Heat storage technologies: markets, actors, potentials.