Globally, biomass is one of the largest sources of renewable energy used by several large companies to achieve economic, social and environmental sustainability. According to a survey, in the UK by 2020, it could provide 8-11% of the UK’s total primary energy demand, a substantial increase from 3% in 2012.

However, supply chain analytics and management has been a key bottle neck for biomass energy investors, worldwide. Understanding whether farmers can grow sufficient biomass feedstock has been seen as a key factor in blocking successful investment in bioenergy heat and power.

Software and Data company Ecometrica and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) clearly understood this problem and hence has developed a sophisticated new software tool called B-MAS – Biomass Market Assessment Service.

The Biomass Market Assessment Service (B-MAS), launched in 2015 at Glasgow, provides power companies and potential investors in bioenergy supply with information on the future take-up and supply of bioenergy crops under different pricing and policy scenarios.

The underlying modelling system, which runs on the University of Edinburgh’s high performance computing infrastructure, helps de-risk the decision-making process for new investments in heat and power plants by identifying areas where farmers are likely to respond positively to demands for energy crops such as short-rotation coppice and miscanthus. Farmer behaviour is a key factor that has been seen as a blockage to successful investment in bioenergy heat and power in the UK.

The system will allow potential investors to explore a number of options, taking account of market conditions, energy and agricultural policies, access and cost of raw materials, availability of suppliers and the return on capital, using a range of scenarios. The powerful computer model, which even takes account of possible climate change, will then allow users to assess how the various inter-related factors would affect the outcome of their plans.

B-MAS, which will be available on Ecometrica’s Mapping platform for data distribution, will be maintained and updated to reflect changes impacting the biomass market and in response to user requirements. Clients are expected to include utilities, investors in renewable energy, agri-consultants and other players in the biomass market. The service is initially being offered in the UK only but has the potential to be developed for other countries.

More software like B-MAS could be extremely useful for many large industries using biomass briquettes and pellets for their boilers and CHPs complying with their sustainability mandates.