Solid Fuel

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About
Sugarcane is one of the most efficient energy crops. Bagasse has historically been used around the world to power sugar and ethanol mills. A well-run mill (for example, with efficient boilers) can be self-sufficient in heat and power, and also generate a large surplus that may be sold to the grid.

The potential for co-generation from sugarcane biomass has long been recognized, and many studies have investigated this vast and highly underutilized fuel. Conservative estimates from 2009 put worldwide potential at 425 million tons, equivalent to 662.4 million barrels of crude oil, located primarily in Asia (China, India, Pakistan, and Thailand) and South America (Brazil and Colombia) but also in Australia, Mexico, and Guatemala. In 2012 Brazil, for example, generated 1400 million watts from bagasse, though the potential would be 10 to 15 times greater if tops and leaves were included. Currently, a major limiting factor is the low price paid to sugarcane producers for their surplus electricity due to competition from hydropower.