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New York alliance pushes for more biomass use

By Anna Austin | February 04, 2011

The New York Biomass Energy Alliance has launched a campaign to increase the role of biomass energy in the state, calling on state leaders to adjust New York’s renewable energy policies.

According to the alliance, which is made up of individuals, businesses and organizations, New York currently depends on out-of-state resources for 92 percent of its energy needs, creating an annual bill of about $1,000 dollar per state resident. "New York's bill for fuel oil purchases comes to more than $5 billion, and some $3.5 billion of this leaves the state to benefit foreign oil suppliers,” said NYBEA President Charlie Niebling. “If the same money were spent on local fuel, those dollars would circulate in the local economy, providing local income, jobs, tax revenues and support for New York farmers and forest landowners."

Describing biomass as a neglected opportunity, the campaign has several initiatives which include encouraging the use of biomass energy to heat public buildings, amending public procurement policies that currently favor the purchase of fossil fuels, managing the state's renewable electricity portfolio standard to encourage the use of biopower in meeting the state's base-load electrical needs, and establishing programs that help lower-income households obtain efficient biomass heating equipment.

The campaign also addresses emissions, pointing out that while some older, inefficient and/or poorly operated boilers have created local air quality issues and cast a shadow on the biomass industry as a whole, most modern, high-efficiency biomass boilers and stoves are designed to burn cleanly, with some reaching the emissions profile of modern fuel  oil  systems. It points out that biomass system design standards are rapidly advancing, with units manufactured by several New York manufacturers achieving exceptionally low emissions.  

The alliance is also urging the state to immediately review the policies underlying its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to determine how biopower can help bridge the gap between current performance and the state’s goals. New York’s RPS is currently set at 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015, which the alliance says the state appears to falling short of, at least in measured renewable megawatt hours being added to the grid.

To learn more about the New York Biomass Energy Alliance, visit www.newyorkbiomass.org.