What countries have the greatest bioenergy power capacity?

Electricity generated from materials of biological origin (biomass) is called bioenergy power or simply biopower. In January 2023, there were about 575 utility-scale operating biopower station units with capacities of 30 megawatts (MW) or more. The capacity of these plants was more than 29,000 MW, equivalent to less than 1/2 of one percent of global electricity generation capacity from all sources. Another 6000 MW of biopower capacity was under construction.1


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This plant-specific data probably significantly under-represents the actual installed capacity of biopower in China due to a lack of publicly available data. The data reported here indicate 2955 MW of installed biopower capacity in China (above 30 MW units size). Announcements by the Chinese government suggest the actual number may be closer to 22,000 MW.2


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China and Brazil dominate total operating biopower capacity, but they have distinct patterns of fuel sources. China relies heavily on biomass residues from agriculture and waste-to-energy facilities that burn refuse. Brazil relies principally on residues that are byproducts from the conversion of sugarcane to ethanol as a transportation fuel.


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Biopower expanded slowly through the 1980s and 1990s. In the mid-2000s, capacity increased as Brazil scaled its ethanol production, and as many European countries adopted waste-to-energy facilities, partly due to the scarcity of land for landfills and to public opposition to those facilities. Expansion continued in the 2000s and 2010s in northern Europe with a rich wood resource base, and in China where agricultural residues were increasingly harvested to generate electricity.

1 Global Energy Monitor, Global Bioenergy Power Tracker, January 2023 release, Link

2 Global Energy Monitor, Global Bioenergy Power Tracker Methodology, accessed October 17, 2023, https://www.gem.wiki/Global_Bioenergy_Power_Tracker_Methodology

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