We spend a lot of time talking about coal use in the U.S. to generate electricity, and we don't do this with any intent to bash the coal industry or electric utilities. We present coal data to explain to Policymakers and Environmentalists where the problem is (the "Elephant") in greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation.
The below graph from U.S. Department of Energy 2007 data shows that coal fired resources represent ~51% of all electricity generation -- and that ~82% of all CO2 emissions from electricity generation come from these coal fired units.
Understanding this above point is key in understanding why biomass energy technologies are so important.
First, through biomass co-firing at an existing coal power plant the existing fuel mix is changed from 100% coal to approximately 90% coal and 10% biomass -- directly reducing coal consumption and its resulting CO2 emissions.
Second, biomass electricity generation units (as well as geothermal) are typically base load facilities which will directly displace base load coal fired generation. Conversely, wind and solar power are typically peaking or intermediate generation resources and will displace natural gas units (not coal base load units).
Electricity generation by fuel sources in the U.S.
CO2 Emissions from electricity generation by fuel source in the U.S.
Biomass Energy Quick Facts