What is biomass?

Biomass refers to organic matter from plants and waste streams. It includes a wide variety of materials, such as:

  • agricultural residues and waste products
  • forestry residues
  • organic wastes from various industries such as food, construction and pulp and paper
  • purpose-grown energy crops
  • woody weeds
  • algae
  • biodegradable municipal waste streams

What is bioenergy?

Bioenergy is generated from the use of organic matter as a source of energy. It covers a variety of fuels that can be used in power generation, heating systems and/or transport, and helps mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Bioenergy is the term used to describe energy and energy related products (such as pellets) derived from biomass.

Biogas is the term used to describe the intermediate gas produced from anaerobic conversion of biomass, this can be used directly in power generation and heating systems.

What are biofuels?

Biofuels are liquid or gaseous fuels derived from biomass. In Australia ethanol produced from sugar cane is a biofuel added to many petroleum products. Biodiesel is produced from renewable plant or animal feedstocks containing fatty acids, and can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form. However, in Australia it is usually used as a blend to reduce levels of particulates, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons from diesel-powered vehicles.

Advantages and benefits

Bioenergy offers several advantages as a renewable source of energy. It can provide a controllable and continuous supply of power, and can use waste materials that otherwise would not have been utilised to create energy.

There is a significant potential to increase the use of bioenergy in Victoria. See fact sheets and case studies below for more information.

Snapshot of bioenergy deployment

Bioenergy technologies are generally well-established, and the ways of converting biomass into bioenergy are numerous. For example, biomass can be burnt directly, aerobically composted or converted into a biogas or liquid.

Bioenergy generates an estimated 2,500 GWh of electricity in Australia per year, contributing around 1 per cent to Australia's electricity and around 12 per cent of renewable energy generation.

Around 10 per cent of the world's primary energy consumption comes from bioenergy, the majority of which is used directly for heat, with around 4 per cent being used for electricity generation.

Status of the bioenergy industry in Victoria

Currently, bioenergy, along with wind and hydro, is one of the most used renewable energy sources in Victoria. Most of the bioenergy used is comprised of wood and wood-waste in the pulp and paper industry and in residential fireplaces. The Victorian Government is supporting research which does not compete with food crops.

The future for bioenergy

Bioenergy is likely to expand as a sector over the coming decades, utilising a number of different feed stocks and producing electricity, heat and sustainable fuels.

The life-cycle carbon emissions of biofuels vary significantly, depending on the raw material used to produce the bioenergy.

Some bioenergy projects may also have amenity issues, like smell, which can affect local areas. But with good management, appropriate technology decisions and informed decisions on where these resources should be located, this can be controlled.

Further Information

Bioenergy Fact Sheets

Bioenergy Case Studies

Page last updated: 06/05/22