Abstract The security of supply and climate change issues and the linked recent growth of the local power generation by means of renewable energies technologies are providing real opportunities for the development of small scale biomass gasification systems. The present paper reports the state of art of the small scale gasification power plants. Initial attention has been given to the different biomass feedstock suitable for gasification, focusing on residues with low cost and low environmental impact. Then the two major typologies of gasifiers (fixed and fluidized bed) have been analyzed in terms of raw gas yield, composition and tar and particulate content. The different cold and hot raw gas conditioning systems, highlighting their compatibility with the different gasification system, are described. High efficiency examples of power production by means of internal combustion engine, micro gas turbine, Solid Oxide Fuel Cell or a mix of them, both as realized plants and process simulated ones, have been then reported. The paper provides an overview of the different power plants in terms of efficiency, reliability and cost.