Editorial: Wasted energy
August 5, 2014
By Amie Silverwood
Canadian Biomass joined a group of Canadian delegates at World Bioenergy in Sweden. We gathered in Stockholm, taking a scenic route with stops at a CHP plant and logging site before arriving in the host city.
Canadian Biomass joined a group of Canadian delegates at World Bioenergy in Sweden. We gathered in Stockholm, taking a scenic route with stops at a CHP plant and logging site before arriving in the host city. The Conference’s theme was “Taking you from know how to show how” and our group was interested in finding solutions that could be adopted in Canada. After the conference was over, we visited a neighbourhood in Stockholm where many of the conference’s principles have been in practice.
We saw that there isn’t one answer to our dependence on fossil fuels but a myriad of solutions that have been proven to be profitable in Sweden. Rather than looking for one solution that could solve emission and waste problems, there is a diversity of answers as unique as our municipalities.
In Sweden, the focus of legislation was on increasing the cost of all kinds of fossil fuels rather than providing subsidies directly to renewable energies. This allowed all emerging technologies to compete on a level playing field while giving them a leg up on heavy polluters rather than having politicians pick and choose favourites.
Clustering biomass businesses together is a practice that we’ve found quite interesting at Canadian Biomass, and it has been a strong focus of our magazine this year. But in Sweden, this idea has been taken further through legislation that forbids the disposal of organic materials in landfills. This means industries that use organic material must find a solution for the disposal of their waste and this requirement has provided a driver for industries to invest in solutions and partner with bioenergy companies.
We saw great examples of how traditional manufacturers have found viable solutions to their waste problems. Researchers at a Swedish university have turned pulp and paper mill sludge into biogas through co-digestion with municipal sludge under thermophilic conditions. Since the sludge has a high moisture content, it is expensive to dry and burn, but when mixed with municipal waste, it can be a great source of biogas, which then has many uses. What was once a waste product and a liability can be a new source of revenue. The technology has been in use in Europe for decades in some cases.
Any of these ideas could be adopted in Canada with the support of legislation but politicians won’t put their necks out and propose these ideas until the general public demands better solutions. With an economy so reliant on fossil fuels from our oil sands and natural gas, and blessed with vast hydroelectric resources, the conversation in Canada has stagnated around pipelines to get our fuels to new markets as traditional markets shift away from this source of energy.
A turnaround in our focus on producing fossil fuels to supporting the production and use of biofuels in Canada won’t happen overnight but it is nice to know a sustainable future is attainable and has been a profitable investment for the Swedish economy. It would pay off to add more diversity to our energy mix, reducing our reliance on landfills would be a bonus.
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