Biomass Policy in Washington

In the past couple months, several noteworthy policy developments that affect the biomass power industry have happened in Washington, D.C.
By Bob Cleaves | September 08, 2019

In the past couple months, several noteworthy policy developments have happened in Washington, D.C. The following is an overview. If your company is not involved in the Biomass Power Association, we welcome your participation. The more voices being heard from the biomass industry and the closely related forestry, landowning and logging industries, the better chance we have for positive outcomes.

Renewable Fuel Standard
The U.S. EPA released its draft rule that will set the market for 2020 for biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Known as the renewable volume obligation (RVO), this is an annual rule that the EPA is required to promulgate, and sets targets in several biofuels categories for obligated parties to purchase credits for or blend with fossil fuels. Disappointingly, the 2020 RVO did not include any volumes for available electricity generated from qualifying renewable sources like biomass, or even a mention of the status of including electricity.

As a reminder, earlier this year, along with the American Biogas Council and Energy Recovery Council, we set up the RFS Power Coalition to challenge the EPA’s failure to include electricity in the RFS, as mandated by Congress in 2007. All three organizations’ members should be able to participate in the program, and we are grateful for support from other groups that are affected in the supply chain, such as the National Alliance of Forest Owners and the American Loggers Council. The coalition filed a lawsuit in the D.C. Circuit court of appeals to challenge the 2019 RVO, and we are looking at options for taking legal action to challenge the 2020 RVO as well. We are also working with the other members of the coalition to submit comments to the EPA, making the case that they are setting up the RFS as a delicately balanced “house of cards” that could easily fall if they continue to exclude electricity.

Despite the lack of movement by the EPA, we continue to believe that electricity’s inclusion in the RFS is not a matter of “if,” but “when.” It’s not only mandated by Congress, but the availability of renewable electricity to power EVs is crucial for their sustainability to reach its full potential.

We are hosting an RFS-focused fly-in on Sept. 26 for biomass, biogas and waste-to-energy industry members to help us continue to call attention to this issue. It’s a fight we can win, and we need help from everyone in this sector to win it. Send an email to Carrie Annand at carrie@usabiomass.org if you’d like more information.

Tax
After many years, we are finally seeing some movement on tax incentives for biomass. In August, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, a longtime champion for renewable tax parity, and Rep. Scott Peters, D-California, also a strong advocate for renewable incentives, introduced the Renewable Electricity Tax Credit Equalization Act. The bill will bring the biomass sector, along with the hydropower, waste-to-energy and biogas industries, up-to-date with tax credits by offering retroactive production tax credit and investment tax credit eligibility for 2018 and 2019. It also advances the cause with five additional years of credit at double the previous rate. After many years of being disadvantaged by short-term extensions at half the value of competing technologies, this bill is a welcome change and would help biomass projects get off the ground.

Tax incentives for renewable energy will likely be a hot topic this fall, as House Democrats look for ways to show voters their support for clean energy. The Stefanik-Peters bill is not a guarantee by any means, but it gets biomass in the conversation.

Get Involved
Finally, National Bioenergy Day is coming up on Oct. 23. It’s a great opportunity to remind your community of the economic and environmental benefits of biomass.

Again, we welcome support and involvement from all across the biomass power sector. Reach out to us for more information on how you can help.


Author: Bob Cleaves
President, U.S. Biomass Power Association
bob@usabiomass.org
www.usabiomass.org