Biomass and waste fuels made up 2% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2016

November 27, 2017

Biomass and waste fuels generated 71.4 billion kilowatthours of electricity in 2016, or 2% of total generation in the United States, according to EIA’s recently released annual electric power data. Biomass fuels are defined as all non-fossil, carbon-based (biogenic) energy sources. Waste fuels are defined as all other non-biogenic wastes.

Wood solids accounted for nearly one-third the electricity generated from biomass and waste. Most wood solids come from one of three sources: logging and mill residues; wood, paper, and furniture manufacturing; and discarded large timber products, such as railway ties, utility poles, and marine pilings.

Fuels that are byproducts of chemically processing wood are known as wood-derived fuels. Almost all wood-derived fuels are waste that was created as a byproduct of making paper-related products. The dominant wood-derived fuel is black liquor, a byproduct of the kraft pulping process. Black liquor accounted for 27% of 2016 biomass- and waste-generated electricity. Other paper-making wastes used as fuel—including sludge waste, wood-waste liquids, and other biomass liquids—are also byproducts of the paper-making process, but combined they produced less than 0.5% of 2016 biomass-generated electricity.

Municipal solid waste (MSW), which comes from landfills, provided 20% of biomass- and waste-generated electricity in 2016. EIA estimates that 51% of MSW-based electricity came from biogenic sources—wood, paper, food, rubber, and yard trimmings were the most common sources. The remaining MSW came from non-biogenic sources such as plastics.

Landfill gas is created by decomposing organic material in landfills. Its composition is about...

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