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1.1. Advantages

· Sufficient competitiveness of biomass as energy resource in comparison with hydrocarbon

· High potentiality (large areas of crop-land ­ marginal land - semiarid land)

· Possibility to penetrate all energy market (heat    power - transport - chemicals)

· Possibility of bioenergy systems on very small scale (few KW) - or very large scale (hundred of MW)

· Significant environmental benefits as far as pollution concerns

· Positive effects on employment in rural areas for the biomass resource production


1.2. Disadvantages

*   Need of supplying expensive energy feedstock

*   Difficulty in the identification of the most promising systems

*   Optimisation of bioenergy activity requires very deep knowledge of wide sectorial competence (~100 sectors)

*   Need to adopt horizontal and vertical integration of sub-systems to improve the economic basis of bioenergy complexes

*   Water, soil, climatic, environmental constraints limiting the biomass productivity and the choice of plants


2.1.   Land

On all continents the potential crop-land available for bioenergy is significant.

In the European Union, the potential crop-land is estimated to be 40 million ha, in the USA around 70 million ha, in Africa 700 million ha (also assuming that the land is used twice for the production of food). The figure for Latin America is estimated to be still higher.

2.2. Water

Water is vital for biomass product. Increased human activity requires more and more water. Its availability is shrinking as shown in the figure below:


2.2.   Living Species

    Living Species (identified so far) are numerous.


Number of species

Monera (bacteria, blue-green algae)






Plantae (multicellular plants)




Platyhelminthes (flatworms)


Nematoda (roundworms)


Annelida (earthworms)




Non-insect arthropoda (mites, spiders, crustaceans)


    Human food-industry activity is based only on a few hundreds types of crops. Therefore, there is wide scope to explore new biomass crops for energy. Good choice of crops becomes important for large scale biomass production play a leading role across the entire spectrum of energy needs of developing countries, while simultaneously achieving critical economic, social and environmental objectives. Sustainably produced biomass energy resources and products can include, among others:

(i) traditional woodfuels (fuelwood and charcoal);

(ii)    briquettes from agricultural and woody-biomass residues;

(iii) biogas;

(iv) bio-ethanol; and

(v)    methanol.

Additionally, and of paramount importance, a wide variety of biomass resources can today be used in power generation through dendro-thermal and gasification processes. All of these biomass-based energy resources and products can be produced in a decentralized basis, can generate large number of employment in the rural areas, and can significantly contribute to conserve local ecosystems and to establish sustainable carbon sinks. What also has been learned from past experience, is that the success of getting substantial results will require on the one hand, the combined efforts of all involved, not only the communities, but the public and the private sector as well, and, on the other hand, continued efforts to facilitate the development of energy markets, so that biomass-based technologies can find their competitive edge along with other conventional or newer forms of renewable energy.

Within that context, the World Bank Group has elaborated a comprehensive energy sector policy platform which includes the development of the biomass energy sub-sector within an environmentally sustainable, economically viable and socially equitable framework. Hence, the World Bank Group is now increasingly positioned to supports its client countries to:

(i) formulate and implement an appropriate multi­sectorial policy framework which promotes a rational and efficient production, transformation and use of biomass energy resources and products by the community and the public and private sectors;

(ii)     establish natural resource management systems and schemes capable of sustainably producing traditional biomass fuels and modem and/or new biomass-based energy products, and capable of contributing towards the mitigation of desertification and climate change;

(iii)    promote an active and equitable participation of the rural community in the production and marketing of biomass energy resources and products; and,

(iv)    promote the participation of the private sector in the biomass energy sub-sector, with a special emphasis on the investment in modern and/or new biomass energy technologies and products.

In addition to its regular Regional Energy Units (Africa, Asia, LAC, etc.) The World Bank Group has several \ specialized energy programs, such as the World Bank/UNPD "Energy Sector Management Assistance Program - ESMAP", the "Africa Regional Program for the Traditional Energy Sector - RPTES" and the "Asia Alternative Energy Program - ASTAE", which assist client countries on biomass energy issues through:

(i) policy and institutional development support;

(ii)    local capacity development programs;

(iii) knowledge dissemination activities;

(iv) identification and preparation of public investment programs and projects; 

(v)     mobilization of funding for public sector programs and project, through IDA, mRD, GEF, multi-lateral and bilateral co-financing and the newly established Prototype Carbon Fund (PCF); and,

(vi)    identification of private sector projects, for follow-up by the International Finance / Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group.

Before closing, we would like to appeal to the industrialized countries and to the private sector for them to actively join in the efforts of the international development community to transfer modern biomass energy and other renewable energy technologies to the developing countries. Doing so will not only provide for significant development opportunities and economic growth in the recipient countries, but will open new markets and investment opportunities for the industrialized countries and private sector companies that participate in the process.