California cap-and-trade expenditure deal benefits biomass

By Erin Voegele | September 01, 2016

The California legislature has passed legislation that aims, in part, to support biomass plants within the state. The bill calls on electricity retailers to enter into five-year contracts for 125 MW of biomass power from facilities that generate energy from wood harvested from high fire hazard zones.

The bill, SB 859, features an expenditure plan for unallocated cap-and-trade proceeds. According to information released by the office of California Gov. Edmund Brown, the expenditure plan deal will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through programs that benefit disadvantage communities, support clean transportation, reduce short-lived climate pollutants and protect natural ecosystems. The biomass provisions are among many provisions included in the bill.  

The governor’s office explained that under current law, 60 percent of annual cap-and-trade auction proceeds are allocated on an ongoing basis to public transit, affordable housing, sustainable communities and high-speed rail. The agreement included in SB 859 invests $900 million of the remaining unallocated funds for fiscal year 2016-’17, while reserving approximately $462 million for appropriation in future years.

Regarding bioenergy, the bill aims to require electrical retailers to enter into five-year contracts for a cumulative 125 MW of bioenergy capacity from projects that began operations prior to June 1, 2013 and that produce electricity using specified minimum percentages of certain types of forest feedstock.

“Biomass facilities serve as vital tools in meeting the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard and the eradication of dead and dying trees from high hazard fire zones,” said Julee Malinowski-Ball, executive director of the California Biomass Energy Alliance. “Today’s passage of Senate Bill 859 ensures that the biomass industry will continue to meet both of these important objectives.

“SB 859 calls on retail sellers of electricity to enter into five-year contracts for at least 125 megawatts of power from biomass facilities that generate electricity from forest materials removed from specific high fire hazard zones,” Malinowski-Ball continued. “This bill helps provide certainty to some in the biomass industry which have struggled due to antiquated contracts. More importantly, SB 859 will assist the state in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting long-term forest management goals.

“CBEA applauds the leadership of the legislature for continuing to support the biomass industry and looks forward to the governor’s signature on this essential piece of legislation,” Malinowski-Ball said.

A full copy of the bill can be downloaded from the California legislature website.