Business Briefs

By Anna Simet | December 06, 2017

Gardiner to replace Thompson as Drax CEO 
Drax Group plc recently announced that Will Gardiner will be named group chief executive, effective Jan. 1. His appointment follows Dorothy Thompson’s decision to step down from the position at the end of the year.

Gardiner joined Drax as group chief financial officer and member of the board in November 2015. A notice released by Drax states the board has kept succession planning well under review, and his appointment to group chief executive comes after a thorough selection process involving internal and external candidates.

“Drax Group plays a strategic role in the U.K. electricity sector generating around 16 percent of U.K. renewable electricity, is a world leader in the production of wood pellets and is a leading challenger brand in the supply of electricity to businesses,” Thompson said. “I retire knowing the group is in excellent shape. It has the right strategy, the right team and in Will, the right leader.”
The board will now begin the process to appoint a new group chief financial officer, and will review the option to make an appointment on an interim basis.

Bulk pellet delivery capacity expands in Vermont
In early November, Vermont Renewable Fuels purchased a new bulk pellet delivery truck. The 2017 Kenworth, capable of hauling 16 tons of pellets with fully pneumatic delivery system, was funded in part by a $94,000 grant from the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund.

Vermont Renewable Fuels delivers bulk wood pellets throughout Vermont and surrounding areas providing over 1,300 tons of heating fuel to customers each year. They travel over 25,000 miles every heating season delivering to both residential and commercial venues.

Canada pellet exports nearly double
Canada’s National Energy Board reported that the country’s wood pellet exports increased by 46 percent between 2015 and 2016. The growth is attributed to growing global demand for biomass-fired electricity generation to replace coal-fired generation.

Over the past five years, NEB said Canadian wood pellet exports have increased by 73 percent, growing from just under 1.37 billion kilograms (1.369 million metric tons) in 2012 to 2.373 billion kilograms in 2016. By weight, Canada is now the second largest wood pellet exporter, following the U.S.

The U.K. is the primary destination for Canadian wood pellets, followed by Japan and the U.S. Approximately 70 percent of Canadian exports are destined for the U.K., with 11 percent shipped to Japan and 7 percent supplied to the U.S. The remaining 12 percent of exports are split between 11 other countries.

The NEB attributes growth in exports to the U.S., in part, to response to growing biomass electricity generation in the U.S.

Drax sells Billington Bioenergy
Drax has sold Billington Bioenergy—a distributor of wood pellets in the U.K. heating market—to Aggregated Micro Power Holdings, an AIM-listed energy company specializing in the sale of wood fuels and the development of distributed energy assets, including biomass boilers and battery storage.

Consideration for the transaction is £2 million ($263.8 million), comprised of £1.6 million of shares in AMPH and £400,000 of cash.

The sale of BBE is aligned with Drax's retail strategy, focused on the I&C and SME energy markets. However, through its shareholding in AMPH, Drax will retain an interest in the U.K. heating market, whilst gaining exposure to the development of small-scale distributed energy assets.

Pinnacle Renewable Energy’s McCurdy wins award
Rob McCurdy, CEO of Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc., has been named is Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2017 Pacific winner.

Before joining Pinnacle, McCurdy held positions across the globe spanning chemical, construction materials and mining industries. Most recently, he was the India managing director for a world-leading producer of building materials. McCurdy became Pinnacle CEO in August 2012, leading major transformation and improvement changes in the organization’s safety and culture. Under his leadership, Pinnacle has improved its safety rate by 90 percent, significantly increased employee engagement, and improved EBITDA results by over 100 percent. Today, Pinnacle is the world’s third-largest producer of wood pellets, shipping over 1.4 million metric tons per year from its seven B.C. locations, and the company is currently expanding into Alberta.

As the Pacific region’s EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2017, Rob will compete with top entrepreneurs from other Canadian regions for the national honor of Canada’s EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2017.

Stefanik introduces tax credit for biomass, biogas
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., recently introduced the Renewable Electricity Tax Credit Equalization Act, which aims to extend the Section 45 production tax credit (PTC) for electricity produced from closed-loop biomass, open-loop biomass, geothermal, municipal solid waste, qualified hydropower facilities and marine and hydrokinetic facilities.

The Section 45 PTC for closed-loop biomass, open-loop biomass, geothermal, municipal solid waste, qualified hydropower facilities and marine and hydrokinetic facilities expired Dec. 31, 2016. However, production tax credits for wind and solar were granted long-term extensions in late 2015.

Stefanik issued statements that explained the bill’s extension would be on the same terms and for the same time and phase-out schedule as was provided to Section 48 solar energy property in 2015. The tax credit for solar currently stands at 30 percent for projects that begin construction before the end of 2019 and phases down to 10 percent for projects that begin construction before the end of 2022.

The Biomass Power Association, American Biogas Council and Energy Recovery Council are among the groups that have spoken out in support of Stefanik’s bill.


Billington Bioenergy, Forest Fuels join forces
Forest Fuels has joined forces with Billington Bioenergy, under the ownership of AMP plc, providing the U.K. with its most comprehensive wood fuel distribution network to date.

While the two brands will continue to operate independently, behind the scenes they will immediately combine their expertise and distribution resources. “This is an exceptional development, not only for Forest Fuels but also for the wood fuel industry as a whole,” said Peter Solly, Forest Fuels managing director. “Customers from both companies will now have access to an even more comprehensive and efficient wood fuel supply chain. We’ll have more local depots, additional numbers of specialized delivery vehicles, and an increased number of specialists on hand to deal with enquiries. We are delighted to welcome Billington’s 34 staff members to the team.”

Previously owned by Drax, Billington has built a strong and well-regarded business in the wood pellet market in England over the past 10 years.

As well as supplying around 130,000 metric tons (MT) per year of wood pellets, Forest Fuels also supplies around 70,000 MT of wood chips.  Billington Bioenergy supplies around 40,000 MT of wood pellets. "This is wonderful news for Billington and for our customers,” said Roger Pearson, Billington Bioenergy managing director. “Billington Bioenergy has always endeavored to provide and deliver the very highest-quality wood fuel for our customers—by joining forces with Forest Fuels we are in an even stronger position to do this.”

GREC sells 102.5-MW biomass facility to GRU
Gainesville Renewable Energy Center, a partnership of Energy Management Inc., BayCorp Holdings, Starwood Energy and Fagen Power LLC, has sold its 102.5-MW biomass facility to Gainesville Regional Utilities for $750 million. The GREC facility reached commercial operation in 2013 and sold all of its energy, capacity and environmental attributes to GRU under a 30-year power purchase agreement.
Jim Gordon, CEO of GREC, remarked, “Our biomass project had an excellent safety, environmental, and operating history. The sale was prompted by the recognition that both GREC and GRU could unlock enhanced value through this transaction.”