The term "biomass" refers to organic matter that has stored energy through the process of photosynthesis. It exists in one form as plants and may be transferred through the food chain to animals' bodies and their wastes, all of which can be converted for everyday human use through processes such as combustion, which releases the carbon dioxide stored in the plant material. Many of the biomass fuels used today come in the form of wood products, dried vegetation, crop residues, and aquatic plants. Biomass has become one of the most commonly used renewable sources of energy. It is such a widely utilized source of energy, probably due to its low cost and indigenous nature, that it accounts for almost 15% of the world's total energy supply and as much as 35% in developing countries, mostly for cooking and heating.

It is used to raise steam, which, in turn, is used as a by-product to generate electricity. Considerable research and development work is currently underway to develop smaller gasifiers that would produce electricity on a small-scale. For the moment, however, biomass is used for off-grid electricity generation, but almost exclusively on a large-, industrial-scale.

Biomass has to be considered in the search for an alternative source of energy that is abundant in a wide-scale yet non-disruptive manner, since it is capable of being implemented at all levels of society. Biomass cannot replace our current dependence on coal, oil, and natural as, but it can complement other renewables such as solar and wind energy.