How Biomass Power Association Is Responding to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Biomass facilities have been deemed 'essential critical infrastructure' by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, meaning that not only are they exempt from stay-at-home directives, but they also have a special responsibility to keep operating.
By Carrie Annand | May 10, 2020

First, we at Biomass Power Association hope this finds all Biomass Magazine readers in good health. Like every other industry in the world, the biomass power industry is affected by the outbreak of coronavirus. We are concerned about the health of our members and their employees and also the potential business impacts.

We’ve polled our members and so far, it seems that biomass power producers are hanging in there as best as could be expected. Many of our members are preparing alternate plans for spring outages. They are also preparing for extended shelter-in-place mandates during which employees may be required to remain at the facility 24/7. Some are having to sell power in a market with significantly less demand than normal as offices shut down and people stay home. And all this is on top of preparing for potential worker illnesses and putting in place social distancing measures as much as possible.

Amidst all this change and uncertainty, we are looking for every available opportunity for biomass companies to participate in government programs designed to keep the economy afloat. Biomass, along with forestry and agriculture, are deemed “essential critical infrastructure” by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, meaning that not only are they exempt from stay-at-home directives but they also “have a special responsibility in these times to continue operations.”

With this in mind, we are working with our contacts on Capitol Hill to make sure they understand the sacrifices that are being made by biomass power facilities to stay open and continue providing renewable, reliable power, no matter what.

As Congress puts together legislation to address the many problems caused by coronavirus, its first priorities have been related to getting funds to laid off workers, ensuring testing and healthcare are available to the ill, and providing assistance to industries directly impacted by the virus. One already-passed measure that may benefit biomass power companies is the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which enables companies with 500 or fewer employees to receive forgivable loans to cover payroll, mortgage interest, utilities and other costs.

However, there will likely be some stimulus measures included in a future bill that will benefit the biomass industry. Some of the provisions may include:

• A long-term extension of the Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit

• Direct payments to companies to incentivize construction of new facilities, similar to the Department of the Treasury’s 1603 Grant Program following the financial crisis of 2008

• Refundable tax credits for existing facilities

We also continue to work toward getting funding to the EPA to process applications for biomass, biogas and waste-to-energy facilities to participate in the Renewable Fuel Standard. This year’s Fiscal Year 2021 Appropriations process appears to be moving ahead as normal, and we have champions in both the House and Senate advocating for eRIN funding.

If you are curious about how your company can participate in current or upcoming stimulus measures, or what we are doing to get electricity producers to be able to generate valuable RIN credits, we’d love to hear from you. Please reach out.

Contract: Carrie Annand
Executive Director, Biomass Power Association