Canadian Biomass Magazine

Biomass in the budget: Q&A with FPAC CEO Derek Nighbor

April 12, 2017
By Maria Church

April 12, 2017 - Canadian Biomass sat down with Derek Nighbor, CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), to get his thoughts on the 2017 budget, which includes $1.8 billion to support clean technology. It's going to take some work, Nighbor says, to put forestry biomass in a position to benefit from those dollars.

Q: What’s your overall satisfaction with the 2017 federal budget?

Derek Nighbor: There’s some good stuff in the budget, there’s no doubt about that, but the devil is going to be in the details. So our job now is pushing the federal government to really deliver on broad commitments.

Some of the biggest ones are innovation and transformation of our sector and that’s absolutely critical to our future, the survival of the industry, and to staying competitive globally. There was about $1.8 billion for clean tech and innovation, but that’s broad – that could be for mining and that could be oil and gas – so our job is to ensure that we are getting our fair share of that investment.

Q: Discussions about clean tech often involve solar and wind power, is there recognition from the feds about the role of biomass?

Nighbor: There is, but it’s not where it needs to be. I think that’s because we’re on a bit of curve here and the biomass opportunity is still not broadly understood or appreciated so we have to get our elbows up a bit more.

The renewables agenda is huge and ensuring that biomass is inserted in the same sentence as wind and solar remains a challenge that we’re working to address. I’m confident that we’re going to get there but we just have to keep hammering away.

Q: Is there an opportunity for Canada to have a national biomass strategy?

Nighbor: I believe there is, and I believe it’s being worked on. I think it’s a matter of pulling it together. We’re going to have all forest ministers from across Canada in Ottawa in September. I know this is something they’ve talked about as a group and I’m really hopeful we’re going to take that conversation to the next level in the fall.

The issue is that you’ve got to educate multiple departments in government. This touches the minister responsible for innovation, environment, natural resources, labour, finance – it’s a lot of work.

Those real-life examples (Canfor Pulp-Licella partnership) and the opportunities they’re going to bring to the economy and the environment, that’s going to be key, to continue to tell those stories.

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