Biomass Takes on Minneapolis

By Bob Cleaves | May 06, 2013

In early April, I attended the International Biomass Conference & Expo in Minneapolis. This was a huge gathering of every possible aspect of the biomass industry. Wood-to-energy, equipment and machinery, torrefaction, thermal, combined heat and power, biofuels and algae were all represented at the conference, among even more topics.

The term “biomass” is an umbrella term that refers to an incredibly diverse selection of industries and markets. Yet, there is a good reason that all of these sectors were present in Minneapolis. In addition to the networking opportunities, we all need to be aware of the policy challenges facing our respective pieces of the biomass industry.

Through collective efforts, we can make sure that the industry continues to grow in the coming years, and protect it from challenges that come from Washington, state and local governments.
One example of an area where we are making progress on the federal level is in the area of energy tax reform. While comprehensive tax reform that gives serious, long-term support to renewable energy resources is far from guaranteed, there have been a couple recent reasons for optimism.

First, President Obama included in his fiscal year 2014 proposed budget a line item that would permanently extend production tax credits (PTC) to renewable energy sources. This would be very encouraging for the biomass industry if it came to pass, as it would help new facilities secure the considerable investments they need for construction. It would also allow us to divert our resources to other important issues, rather than advocating for a PTC renewal every couple of years.

Second, the House Ways and Means Committee invited testimony from the Biomass Power Association on energy tax reform. In March, I testified in front of the Committee, and last month provided written testimony on what we as an industry need to see happen. I recommended four things:

• Make renewable electricity tax incentives permanent.

• Make the tax rate standard across the board for all technologies.

• Recognize the value of existing biomass facilities.

• Promote refurbishment of older facilities, and acknowledge the value of cofiring with fossil fuels is possible.

Obviously, this wish list won’t solve everything for the biomass industry. It’s not even guaranteed that any of this will become law. It’s a good start, however, that both the president and Congress are looking seriously at energy tax law and ways that it can be improved.

As I noted above, the biomass industry is made up of a lot of smaller, more specialized sectors. We all have common interests though, and it is my firm belief that we can accomplish more by comparing notes and acting together on policy and other issues we face. The International Biomass Conference & Expo was a great example of that, and I look forward to seeing you all at future events.

Author: Bob Cleaves
President and CEO, Biomass Power Association