A ‘Biomess’ in Massachusetts

The commonwealth's final RPS qualification standards are overdue.
By Lisa Gibson | January 25, 2011

As Massachusetts develops new renewable portfolio standard (RPS) qualifications, the commonwealth could be positioning itself as the most unwelcoming to biomass projects in the country, leaving developers, foresters, laborers and biomass proponents concerned about the future of the industry.

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources is months overdue on issuing its final draft of rule changes, determining which projects qualify for the state’s 20 percent by 2025 RPS and receive renewable energy certificates (RECs). Without RECs, biomass projects are not economical. The DOER previously released drafts of proposed rule changes, including a 60 percent efficiency standard and a limit on the amount of forest wood that can be used: 15 percent of the weight of all forest products. The changes stem from a push against state regulatory agencies by opposition groups trying to stop the use of biomass to produce renewable energy.

The proposed rules stipulate that if a biomass power plant can reach 40 percent efficiency it will receive half an REC, ratcheted up to one full REC upon reaching 60 percent efficiency. From a developer’s perspective, even 40 percent can be a daunting hurdle.

Dwayne Breger, director of renewable and alternative energy development for the DOER, had expected the agency to file final rule regulation in January.

—Lisa Gibson