Bioenergy is the process of utilizing heat for a variety of power generation applications from biomass. Biomass is the material produced by plants and other organisms that contain combustible materials, from hydrocarbons like methane and ethanol to wood chips and pulp. Fuels derived from waste materials are a particularly powerful tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in communities around Peru and the region. In recent years, bioenergy has found a valued position in international efforts to create more efficient industrial and commercial supply chains and reduce costs to local municipalities and targeted industry. Bioenergy can provide heat for buildings and industrial processes, that heat can be converted into electricity, and other biofuels can be used to power vehicles as transportation fuel. Bioenergy is often considered to be the oldest form of renewable energy utilized by human societies and has an important role in modern times.
Scale of Resource
Peru has a host of bioenergy options readily available, many of which are only beginning to be fully understood. In particular, there are enormous bioenergy opportunities to be explored alongside improvements in local municipal services, such as water treatment and waste management. For decades, bioenergy technology has been developed in Europe, Asia and the United States to reach impressive efficiencies and has achieved commercial viability in many markets around Latin America, including Peru.
According to one estimate, bioenergy electrical generation potential capacity alone could be as high as 228MW. In context, 82.5MW of biomass and biogas energy power plants are currently in operation in Peru. Of that total potential, 51MW is in biogas, of which only 8MW is currently installed. Importantly, this study was conducted looking at existing (2009) waste streams. As waste management infrastructure investments increase in Peru, as is widely accepted by experts, this potential for energy production will only increase.
Development of bioenergy resources depends heavily on the energy policy environment put in place by the national government in Lima, and upon the strength of public-private partnerships between local governments, relevant private firms and industry, and players in the private energy markets.
Woody Biomass and Pulp
Woody plants account for the lion share of renewable bioenergy currently utilized globally and is arguably the first renewable energy resource utilized by human civilizations. Woody biomass is materials produced by trees and shrubs through photosynthesis that consist of carbohydrates and lignin. The most common application for these materials is to be burned for heat and electrical power generation, sometimes both.
Additionally, industrial processes that handle wood, paper products and some agricultural products create waste that has a substantial energy content. Sawdust and wood chips from saw mills are a source of readily available biomass that can improve the energy efficiency of the logging industry, for example. Other industries, such as paper mills and food processing plants, produce waste products in the form of pulp or fibrous bagasse that can also be used to produce energy.
(for Compressed Natural Gas as a transportation fuel, see: Clean Transportation)
Biogas is a mixture of methane, carbon dioxide and other trace gases produced by anaerobic bacteria. Through refining processes, biogas can reach purities of methane similar to natural gas, thus making it an attractive renewable alternative. Biogas plants, or anaerobic digesters, are commonly associated with waste management infrastructure, like wastewater treatment plants and landfills, and introduce ways to improve water management and reduce materials handling costs. Below is a photo of the Potawatomi Tribe’s industrial food waste digester located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.
In recent years, large farming operations in Europe and the United States have utilized biogas systems to process animal waste to produce energy. Through these investments, farmers have been able to produce fertilizer for their crops, reduce water usage, and produce heat and power for on-farm use. Below is a photo of the manure digester located at Rosendale Dairy in Wisconsin, USA.
Bio-Diesel and Ethanol
(Renewable petroleum products, see: Clean Transportation)
Bio-diesel and Ethanol are created through the process of combining plant-derived fats and oils with various forms of alcohol to produce renewable liquid hydrocarbons. The vast majority of these bioenergy applications are for use in transportation fuels.
As of July of 2017, Peru has 82.5MW of bioenergy capacity installed and in operation from five individual sites, as well as multiple smaller sites around the country that are not connected with the national energy market. Those connected with the national energy market include three bagasse/pulp plants; Chira (Piura, 14MW), Paramonga (Lima, 23MW), and AgroAurora (Piura, 37.5MW). And two biogas plants; Energía Limpia-La Gringa (Lima, 3.2MW) and Petramás (Lima, 4.8MW). Combined with off-grid sources, they produced 779 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity in 2016, or just over 1.5% of the country’s total electrical demand.
Latin America, as of 2015, had 20,784MW of installed and operational bioenergy capacity, much of it in Brazil (15,887MW), Guatemala (873MW), Mexico (843MW) and Argentina(642MW). Peru had 178MW (including off-grid sources) of installed capacity, accounting for just 0.9% of the regional total.
The primary opportunity for bioenergy development in Peru likely involves biogas projects associated with waste management infrastructure. As the country continues on a trajectory of rapid economic development, citizens and lawmakers are likely to place more priority in wastewater treatment and sanitary infrastructure, as well as in solid waste management. In each of these cases, bioenergy recovery systems would significantly improve the energy efficiency characteristics of this important infrastructure and serve as a symbol for the country’s commitments to environmentally and socially sustainable development.
When it comes to water treatment and recovery, bioenergy systems can reinforce water savings, an especially important consideration for Peru in the coming decades. This is not just the case with municipal wastewater, but also for industry and agricultural settings.
In the case of solid waste management, biogas systems at landfills serve as a powerful tool to avoid emissions of methane into the atmosphere. Avoiding methane emissions, which are more than 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, will likely become a climate change mitigation mandate in coming years, signaling the importance of making such investments today. Additionally, landfill gas can provide a substantial energy resource for local use in transportation fuel and energy production. A recent study in the US state of Wisconsin indicated that nearly 2/3 of all biogas energy produced in the state came from landfill gas. This indicates a significant energy resource recovery opportunity and a chance to improve solid waste management as the country develops.
 Mitigation Momentum: Sustainable Energy Production from Biomass Waste in Peru – http://www.mitigationmomentum.org/downloads/NAMA-proposal-for-sustainable-energy-production-from-biomass-waste-in-Peru_November%202015.pdf
 MINEM Perú – Anuario Estadístico de Electricidad 2016 – Chap 3 – http://www.minem.gob.pe/_estadistica.php?idSector=6&idEstadistica=11738
 Sustainable Forestry for Bioenergy and Bio-based Products – “What is Woody Biomass?” – http://www.forestbioenergy.net/training-materials/fact-sheets/module-1-fact-sheets/fact-sheet-1-1-what-is-woody-biomass/
 International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) – http://www.irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Publication/2016/IRENA_LAC_RE_Statistics_2016.pdf
 Wisconsin Office of Energy Innovation – https://psc.wi.gov/Documents/OEI/WisconsinBiogasSurveyReport.pdf