Bioenergy: Electricity, heating and cooling


From the age-old use of firewood to cutting-edge biogas generation – biomass technology is a true all-rounder in terms of renewable energies. Go ahead and find out more!



People have been using biomass to generate energy since ancient times. However, the options available today are much more efficient than merely biomass burning. The one constant is that biomass can only release as much carbon dioxide (CO2) as was previously bound in the organisms during their growth. That makes biomass a CO2-neutral fuel and therefore a renewable form of energy.

Biomass, in solid, liquid or gas form, is very versatile in its range of possible applications, and is used to generate electricity and heat and as fuel for transport vehicles. And, in contrast to wind and solar energy, it can be used only when needed. In this way, it makes a valuable contribution to stabilising the energy system.

The most common types of bioenergy plant in Germany are those used for wood burning and gasification, as well as biomass plants used in agriculture, industry and private homes. Biofuels are one of the most significant renewable alternatives used in transport.

In light of the ambitious EU targets of 20% renewable energy and 10% biofuels by 2020, bioenergy is already near the top of the political agenda in Europe. The German biogas sector ranks among the pioneers in this area.


  • Storable energy, versatile use
  • Available in almost all countries
  • Can be used to balance fluctuations in volatile electricity feed-in from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy
  • Use of waste products e. g. animal waste, household waste, crops etc.

A closer look: Electricity and heating & cooling from bioenergy

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Bioenergy is derived from solid biomass, biogas, liquid biomass or biofuels. The most widely used form of biomass for energy generation is wood, for instance in the form of firewood, wood chips and pellets. The practice of using bioenergy, especially in the form of burning wood, has a tradition that spans over thousands of years.

Since bioenergy can be used to generate electricity involving the combustion of biomass, biogas or bio fuels, it is ideally suited for applications in CHP and combined cooling, heat and power (CCHP) processes. Despite the combustion process at the heart of converting solid biomass, biogas and biofuels into usable energy, the conversion is virtually CO2-neutral. Burning wood or other biomass agents only releases the amount of emissions absorbed by the organism during its growth phase. The same amount would be released if biomass was simply left to decay.

A closer look: Biogas and Comibined Heating and Power (CHP)

Biogas is the byproduct of the decomposition of organisms and can be used just like natural gas. It can be produced in biogas plants, and extracted from landfill sites, municipal waste water, industrial, domestic, commercial and agricultural waste materials and energy crops. Finally, biofuels are liquid energy sources most commonly used in the mobility sector.

Stationary use of biogas in CHP plants for generating power and heat achieves a very high degree of efficiency. The electricity produced can be fed into the grid or used as an independent power supply. The waste heat can be used for heating, drying, additional power generation downstream or, in a CCHP plant, for refrigeration.