Canadian Biomass Magazine

Biomass reg threaten renewable energy export boom

July 9, 2012
By AOL Energy

July 9, 2012, Boston, MA - A single Northeastern U.S. state is preparing to miss out on growing export markets for woody biomass fuel production due to pending new regulation designed to lower carbon emissions.

According to an AOL Energy online article, the decision would be a departure from the design of most regulations and markets designed to prevent global warming in Europe and the US.

Massachusetts is poised to adopt a regulation which, according to biomass experts, would keep forest products on the renewable energy sidelines.

State definitions of biomass vary, but they all list forest-thinning and harvesting residues, such as tree tops, limbs, and salvageable deadwood, as qualified boiler fuels.

Massachusetts, however, is the only state to conclude that biomass leads to a net increase in atmospheric carbon. The Department of Energy Resources says its proposed, RPS Biomass Regulation would support the state's Clean Energy and Climate Plan, which directs the state to slash 1990 levels of carbon emissions 80% by 2050.

The regulation reflects "careful consideration of how woody biomass should qualify for the state [renewable portfolio standard] in a manner that is consistent with the Commonwealth's commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the broad range of human and ecological services of the forests," says DOER.

To that end, the regulation would require biomass plants to operate at 60% efficiency to qualify for a full, renewable energy certificate. (Plants operating at 50% efficiency would qualify for "half" REC's).

But the standard means "only combined heat and power systems could qualify" for REC's, Bob Cleaves, president of the Portland, ME-based Biomass Power Association, told AOL Energy. He added that a McHale & Associates study determined that "no biomass-to-electricity plant in the world could meet that standard" without co-generating thermal energy.

While plant developers "would love to do that from a business standpoint," said Cleaves, "when you're in rural areas [where chip production is co-located with forestry operations] you don't have nearby cities or industrial facilities as steam hosts."

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