Advocate for Biomass via Fuel Survey

After years of regulatory uncertainty, in August the U.S. EPA took two actions that could have a big impact on the biomass industry
By Bob Cleaves | September 27, 2015

After years of regulatory uncertainty, in August the U.S. EPA took two actions that could have a big impact on the biomass industry. The Biomass Power Association is determining our next steps in advocating for the utmost benefits to the industry. To chart our course forward, we need the help of all biomass producers across the country: Please contact us to take our fuel survey and tell us about the types of biomass feedstocks used in your facility.

The first action was the release of the final Clean Power Plan. To recap, the Clean Power Plan, which we covered extensively in last month’s column, is, potentially, a very positive development for biomass facilities that came online on or after Jan. 1, 2013. (For older facilities, the plan holds little downside and, encouragingly, won’t regulate biomass as a carbon-emitting energy source.) What remains to be seen is how facilities can become classified as “qualified biomass.” This will have a lot to do with which feedstocks states include in their plans, subject to the EPA’s approval.. The agency is also accepting comments on its model federal plan, which will go into effect in states that don’t submit their own plans.

The second action was the latest report from the Scientific Advisory Board. The SAB is a paneled team of scientists tasked by EPA with determining how to account for emissions from all biogenic sources. The panel is weighing how to assign a biogenic accounting factor to every feedstock, fuel type, use and scenario that they can think of—a monumental task, to say the least. The outcome of the SAB is currently not connected to any legislation or regulation, but the lack of clarity in the Clean Power Plan on acceptable biomass feedstocks leaves open the possibility that the SAB findings could influence the EPA’s decision in this area. 

Given these two interrelated regulatory actions, BPA wants to ensure that it has a good grasp on all materials that are currently in use for biomass energy across the country. To that end, we have developed a fuel survey—the first of its kind that we are aware of—to identify the types of feedstocks used in each state where biomass is an energy source.

We plan to compile the results of this survey, state by state, to help inform us as EPA accepts comments on its proposed model federal plan, and as states begin developing their State Implementation Plans. We realize much of this information is sensitive and proprietary, and we will not release any company-specific information.

 These two regulatory actions, while not creating the absolute certainty we had hoped for, are beginning to indicate the role of biomass in what will amount to a new federal energy policy. We still have a lot of work ahead of us to make sure that all feedstocks currently used by biomass facilities are embraced by states and included in their SIPs.

That is why we hope you will take our fuel survey, even if your company is not a member of Biomass Power Association, to help us better understand and advocate for the industry at this critical time. If you would like to take our fuel survey to provide us with data on your company’s biomass power feedstocks, I encourage you to contact Carrie Annand, BPA’s vice president of external affairs, at carrie@usabiomass.org, for more information.

 

Author: Bob Cleaves
President and CEO, Biomass Power Association
www.biomasspowerassociation.com
bob@biomasspowerassociation.com