By Carsten Huljus
SBP-certified biomass grew 80 per cent in 2018
By Carsten Huljus
Countries worldwide are significantly reducing carbon emissions by replacing traditional fossil fuels with renewable, low-carbon sources of energy, such as wind, solar and biomass. When sourced from sustainably managed forests, woody biomass is widely recognized as an environmentally-friendly alternative to fossil fuels and is helping many countries meet renewable energy goals and legal requirements.
Consequently, the growth of Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP)-certified biomass in the global, industrial biomass market was significant in 2018, some 80 per cent on the year before. In total, 9.05 million tonnes of SBP-certified biomass were produced in 2018, with pellets making up the vast majority (8.4 million tonnes) and the remainder being woodchips. Canada contributed just over 10 per cent of the volume of SBP-certified pellets, and now, with 21 certificate holders in its own right, that volume is set to increase.
Such growth is to be expected for a certification system in its infancy, particularly one that was established to meet strong market demand for a mechanism that allows end-users of biomass for energy to demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements for biomass sustainability.
Since the SBP standards launched in 2015, it has been a steep learning curve for certificate holders, certification bodies and for SBP itself. Four years on, SBP boasts 172 certificate holders across 22 countries.
In Canada, B.C., Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec are responsible for the majority of wood pellet exports. The growth in the country’s certificate holders has been steady, with the first pellet mill certified in October 2016 and the twenty-first in April 2019.
From its industry-led beginnings in 2013, SBP has recently transformed itself into a multi-stakeholder organisation, with representation from biomass producers, biomass end-users and civil society throughout its governance structure.
As a major pellet-producing country, Canada is well represented at the board and committee levels with Vaughan Bassett, senior vice-president of sales and logistics at Pinnacle Renewable Energy, and Arnie Bercov, former president of the Public and Private Workers of Canada, both serving on the board. Gordon Murray, executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC), and Brenda Hopkin, an independent natural resource consultant, serve on the Standards Committee and Technical Committee, respectively. All bring valuable practitioner and technical expertise to assist in and enhance the running of SBP.
We are fortunate to have the full support of WPAC, the voice of Canada’s growing pellet sector. As a strong advocate of multi-stakeholder governance, WPAC has been instrumental in steering change at SBP. Such engagement with our many diverse stakeholders is an essential part of our operations.
At the operational level, we are keen to promote the benefits of a risk-based approach for the evaluation of feedstock. Whereas feedstock certified to FSC, PEFC and PEFC-endorsed schemes is automatically compliant with our feedstock requirements, all other feedstock must be evaluated through a supply base evaluation.
The evaluation, carried out by the biomass producer and independently audited by an accredited certification body, identifies the risk of compliance with a comprehensive set of indicators detailed in our feedstock compliance standard, rating each indicator as either ‘low’ or ‘specified’ risk. A key element of SBP’s focus on identifying and mitigating risks associated with sourcing feedstock is the development of regional risk assessments (RRAs).
The RRA evaluation process covers an entire geographic region, thereby avoiding the need for individual biomass producers to conduct risk assessments. The process also ensures active engagement with stakeholders in the region. SBP’s RRA procedure is available for any organization or initiative to use.
WPAC has adopted the approach and is committed to carrying out RRAs for the five main pellet-producing provinces. The project began in December 2017. To date, WPAC has made significant progress on the RRAs for B.C. and Quebec. Those for Alberta, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia will follow. All RRAs are subject to public consultation and, upon completion, will be submitted to SBP for endorsement.
The RRAs will bring major benefits to Canadian biomass producers by streamlining the supply base evaluation process and the re-certification process, which SBP certificate holders must undergo every five years.
For SBP, our immediate focus is embedding the new governance arrangements. We are reliant on our board and committee members to uphold good governance through a mixture of oversight, insight and foresight. The strong support demonstrated by the pellet-producing industry of Canada is most welcome and we look forward to continuing the good working relationship already established.
Carsten Huljus is the Chief Executive Officer of SBP.