By Bill Mauro
By Bill Mauro
March 26, 2015 - When it comes to sustainable forestry practices, Ontario is a world leader with approximately 80 per cent of our forests being certified. Thanks to this, Ontario is well-positioned for biomass opportunities from our Crown forests.
There’s growing demand in the marketplace for green products and third-party certification of wood that can provide Ontario’s forestry sector with a competitive advantage.
For example, wood pellet production is attracting investment in Ontario and creating employment in several forest-dependent communities. Our province is well-positioned to compete.
In fact, it is Ontario’s sustainably managed forests that are a key competitive strength for investors active in the market for industrial wood pellets.
Jurisdictions adopting pellet use to meet renewable energy targets require sustainable forestry practices as a condition for market entry. Ontario offers that strength.
Already, our province is seeing significant investment in pellet production to feed the expanding European market for industrial pellets. As Europe’s major utilities implement co-firing to cut back on coal use, they are adopting renewable biomass as fuel.
Ontario works closely with its forest tenure holders to ensure wood is made available for a range of economic opportunities, including new pellet mills. An up-to-date summary of available wood supplies is maintained by Ontario in co-ordination with its forest industry, accessible at https://www.ontario.ca/document/available-wood-supply-report-management-unit-summary.
Ontario strongly supports putting our Crown wood resources back to work, and we see pellet mills playing a role in a revitalized industry.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is committed to supporting the sustainable use of forests for a healthy forest products sector and thriving forest-dependent communities. Growth in Ontario’s wood pellet industry is validating the soundness of our management practices.
Ontario also played a major role in converting northern Ontario coal-fired power plants to run on biomass. Our province lays claim to North America’s most significant climate change initiative, having completely phased out coal in electricity generation. By converting two of its coal-fired plants to biomass, Ontario achieved a continental first. The Atikokan Generating Station is completely converted to wood pellets, while the Thunder Bay Generating Station is powered by advanced biomass.
It is reasonable to anticipate other jurisdictions will follow Ontario’s lead by converting coal to biomass or, like Europe, to co-firing.
Sustainably harvested and manufactured wood bioenergy is a low-carbon solution since forest regeneration sequesters carbon through regrowth, offsetting emissions from production. This renewable option also emits significantly lower levels of ash, nitrogen, sulfur and other heavy metals harmful to the environment.
Ontario is already capitalizing on this valuable opportunity. New investments in pellet production capacity are a welcome development — both for the industry and our forest-dependent communities. This market is expected to grow as national and sub-national governments adopt renewable energy requirements.
The industrial pellet market is a major opportunity Ontario’s forest products sector is poised to capitalize on. But the residential pellet market is an opportunity, too. In parts of North America and southern Europe, for example, residential pellet use is competing favourably with home heating oil. Here in Ontario, we see the potential for some remote communities to substitute wood pellets for diesel in power generation.
Ontario government ministry partners are working jointly to open doors for the residential, institutional and commercial pellet sector. Through activities such as case studies and pilot projects and permitting process reviews, our ministries are collaborating to ease the way.
My ministry works with forestry companies, environmental organizations, First Nations and communities to ensure our forest resources are put to economically, socially and environmentally sustainable use. We also support Ontario’s commitment to renewable energy and to make Crown land available for biomass projects. Our sustainability analyses indicate there is significant room within Ontario’s sustainably managed forest to accommodate expected demand for forest biofibre.
My ministry welcomes growth in the wood pellet industry and the opportunity it offers. Industry, employees and communities will benefit. So, too, will the environment.