Maps, Money and Mandates

By Lisa Gibson | April 25, 2012

Traditionally, Biomass Power & Thermal has released two Biomass Power Maps each year, one in the spring and one in the fall. But in light of the exponential growth in the pellet sector driven by small policy changes here in the U.S., and more so by huge policy changes overseas, we thought an annual Pellet Mill Map might be necessary for the industry.

So the Biomass Power & Thermal team researched and compiled detailed information to create the 2012 U.S. & Canada Pellet Mill Map. It is included for you with this issue. We were able to confirm the operational status of 174 mills, idle, proposed, under construction or operating. It turns out the U.S. East is a hotbed of pellet production, spreading a bit into the Midwest. A number of ports in the East, Southeast and in Texas are helping those pellet mills supply European demand. Thirty-eight percent of pellet mills on the map in the U.S. and Canada combined are exporting, have exports in their project proposals, or are export-ready, but lack the customers. With such an evolving industry, I expect big changes for the 2013 map.

In fact, a recent analysis by Wood Resources International LLC shows that the U.S. and Canada exported equal volumes of wood pellets to Europe in the fourth quarter of 2011. Canada has long been the foremost North American pellet exporter; the U.S. has recently been right on its heels, and now we’re in stride.

The focus of this issue is policy, which has been the main driver in all those pellet exports. Unfortunately, U.S. renewables policies haven’t been as steadfast as Europe’s. Associate Editor Luke Geiver explores ideas for U.S. developers who might be left high and dry after benefiting from federal incentives, such as the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, that are now on the chopping block. But not to worry. As Luke shows, successful projects are still possible through a number of options, some a bit creative.

We also get a peek at other financing options from columnists and contributing writers this month.
Associate Editor Anna Austin steers away from financial policy and provides an update on state-level renewable energy standards since we last visited them. Other than expansions for qualification in states with existing standards, not much has changed. No race is underway to implement energy standards, as we’d hoped.

But a National Clean Energy Standard is now on the table in Congress and has us wondering how such legislation, if passed, would affect state-level mandates. Anna will clue us in.
If you’re a developer wondering about the lull in state standards, or looking for new ways to fund projects, you’ll want to read this issue cover to cover.