Biomass companies form thermal energy council

By Ron Kotrba
Web exclusive posted March 12, 2009, at 3:08 p.m. CST

Nine leading biomass companies recently formed the Biomass Thermal Energy Council with a mission to advocate the use of biomass for heat and other thermal applications. In the U.S., thermal energy accounts for about a third of the total energy used today, and founders of the Biomass Thermal Energy Council see opportunities for biomass to fuel that demand.

"The use of biomass for thermal energy is the most responsible and efficient use of this renewable resource," said Charlie Niebling, the council's board chairman. "There is enormous potential for wood pellets, wood chips, energy crops, agricultural residues and other forms of biomass to help meet America's thermal energy needs."

According to the council, it has begun "extensive government affairs activities" in promoting biomass thermal energy in federal, state, and regional policy debates regarding renewable energy. The group is also developing strategic guidance for industry and policymakers, which will detail the benefits from using biomass in all its forms for thermal energy.

An awareness and education campaign is also part of the Biomass Thermal Energy Council's mission. In an effort to increase education and awareness of the benefits of biomass thermal energy and the technologies that will lead to its wider use, the council plans to target its campaign to the media, government and industry leaders, stakeholders, as well as the general public.

Research is another area in which the council will engross itself. The council expects to generate white papers and reports related to biomass thermal energy. One specific topic identified for research is analyzing the economic impact of biomass thermal energy. The Biomass Thermal Energy Council also plans to identify international and U.S. regulatory and permitting issues that can hinder commercialization of biomass for thermal energy applications and offer solutions to those issues.

"We see tremendous opportunity in regions that depend heavily on fossil fuels for heating and combined heat and power," said Jeffrey Serfass, the council's executive director. "Biomass thermal energy can replace those non-renewable fuels while reducing the demand for imported fuels and reducing greenhouse gases. As such, the use of biomass for heating should be an important component of the Obama Administration's new energy policy."

The nine founding members of the Biomass Thermal Energy Council are Bear Mountain Forest Products Inc. in Portland, Ore.; BioHeatUSA in Oak Creek, Colo.; Energex Corp. in Davenport, Okla.; Forest Energy Corp. in Show Low, Ariz.; International WoodFuels LLC in Portland, Maine, and San Diego; Marth; New England Wood Pellet LLC in Jaffrey, N.H.; LLC in Manchester, N.H.; and Woodstone USA in Hingham, MA.