Emphasizing Biomass Benefits on State Levels

As always, we in the industry must remain alert for state changes that can negatively—or positively—affect our businesses.
By Bob Cleaves | September 09, 2017

Typically, the Biomass Power Association is focused on federal government activities that have the potential to affect the biomass industry. Congress and federal agencies like the U.S. EPA, USDA, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. DOE can develop policies that have an enormous impact on biomass facilities across the country. Tax, carbon and electricity market regulation are just a few of the issues that we engage on in Washington.

Even though the Clean Power Plan’s future is very much in doubt, it required every state to design its own carbon reduction plan to meet specific targets. Prior to the Clean Power Plan, many states had already established renewable portfolio standards (RPS) designed to incentivize renewable energy generation. State activity on biomass has been mixed, although mostly supportive of biomass, and cognizant of the benefits that a strong biomass industry can bring.

A few years ago, under its previous administration led by Gov. Deval Patrick, Massachusetts implemented new regulations under its RPS, requiring efficiency standards for biomass facilities far beyond what is possible without making use of a facility’s steam heat. The new standards basically disqualify biomass facilities from participating in the Commonwealth’s renewable energy credit program, dealing a blow not only to the biomass facility in Massachusetts, but also to the dozen or so other New England biomass facilities that supply electricity on the region’s shared grid. 

There is also state activity aiming to promote biomass and recognize its benefits. In 2015, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill, overwhelmingly approved by the state assembly, that recognizes biomass’s carbon neutrality. And last year, after California legislature approval, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the BioRAM proposal, which requires utilities to purchase power from certain biomass facilities that take in hazardous fuel from California’s forests. This legislation is especially critical, because it recognizes the benefits of biomass beyond supplying power to the grid—in this case, the role biomass can play in helping California and the U.S. Forest Service address its tree mortality crisis and avoid catastrophic forest fires. Massachusetts and New Hampshire have also recently enacted legislation to support the biomass industry, during a time of stiff market competition due to low power prices.

As always, we in the industry must remain alert for state changes that can negatively—or positively—affect our businesses. Consistently reminding state legislators and regulators of the benefits of biomass is a good way to ensure that they will seek our input when considering changes. Monitoring the media, engaging with reporters and insisting on factual characterizations of our industry is also essential, as activists step up efforts to spread misinformation. The Biomass Power Association is always here to help facilitate these interactions or advise on messaging.

Bioenergy Day is coming up on Oct. 18, and it’s a great time to consider inviting media and elected officials to meet you at your facility to learn more about the benefits of biomass.

Author: Bob Cleaves
President, Biomass Power Association