Biomass, in the energy production industry, refers to living and recently living biological material which can be used as fuel or for industrial production.
Biomass is part of the carbon cycle. Carbon from the atmosphere is converted into biological matter by photosynthesis. On decay or combustion the carbon goes back into the atmosphere.
Although fossil fuels have their origin in ancient biomass, they are not considered biomass by the generally accepted definition because they contain carbon that has been 'out' of the carbon cycle for a very long time. Their combustion therefore disturbs the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere.
People have used wood – a form of biomass – to heat their homes for centuries. Now, with new technology available, biomass can be used to generate electricity and cleaner fuels. When biomass is burned, energy is released as heat that can be transformed into electricity or fuel.