The Table is Set

By Tim Portz | September 23, 2013

The United Kingdom’s Department of Energy & Climate Change released its report Aug. 22 entitled “Government Response to the consultation on proposal to enhance the sustainability criteria for the use of biomass feedstocks under the Renewables Obligation.” While the report’s title is a mouthful and takes a moment to get one’s arms around, its general premise is quite clear. With the publication of the report and the decisions it outlines, the U.K. is making plain its intention to leverage the carbon sequestering attributes of healthy forests in its efforts to drive carbon dioxide out of its energy portfolio.

In his page-10 column, Seth Ginther, executive director of the U.S. Industrial Pellet Association, succinctly outlines the main points of the report and draws attention to the decision by the DECC to buttress these decisions against reform until 2027, allowing some wiggle room to accommodate any changes that may take place in European Union or international law. Clearly, the policymakers and their advisors inside the DECC are well aware of the profound impact that long-term policy certainty provides to the broader investment community. And, as this issue highlights, significant investments all along the production and distribution chain will have to be made to satisfy foreign demand for pellets. In Anna Simet’s page-19 feature, “Shaping Up to Ship Out” she reports on the broad investments being made all along the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf Coast as U.S. ports ready themselves to handle the volumes of wood pellets that will be flowing through their facilities within 12 months. To put an even finer point on this, she reports in the feature that the Port of Brunswick in Georgia deepened its channel from 30 to 36 feet so that larger vessels could be berthed and filled with pellets. Shipping channels don’t get deepened to satisfy fleeting market opportunities. Port owners, their state governments and investors are convinced that demand for U.S. wood pellets is here to stay.

Finally, the DECC report also establishes that all of this demand must be met with a strict adherence to established sustainability guidelines. As this issue establishes with a page-26 feature by staff writer Chris Hanson and a page-32 contribution by Michael DeBonis, president and executive director of the Forest Guild, forestry professionals, certification bodies and auditing professionals stand ready to ensure this rapidly growing demand is met while delivering maximum environmental, social and economic benefits.