California governor signs bill benefiting biomass power

By Erin Voegele | September 14, 2016

On Sept. 14, California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed legislation that will support biomass plants within the state by calling on electricity retailers to enter into five-year contracts for 125 MW of biomass capacity with facilities that generate energy from wood harvested from high-fire-hazard zones.

The bill, SB 859, is part of a package of legislation signed by Brown that directs $900 million in cap-and-trade funds to greenhouse gas reducing programs that benefit disadvantaged communities, support clean transportation and protect natural ecosystems. The legislation was passed by the California legislature in late August. 

Information released by the governor’s office explains that under currently law, 60 percent of cap-and-trade auction proceeds are allocated on an ongoing basis to public transit, affordable housing, sustainable communities and high-speed rail. Bills signed Sept. 14, including SB 859, AB 1150, AB 2722 and AB 1613, invest $900 million of the remaining unallocated funds for fiscal year 2016-’17 and reserve approximately $462 million for appropriation in future years.

The California Biomass Energy Alliance has spoken out in support of the governor’s action. “We commend Governor Jerry Brown for signing Senate Bill 859,” said Julee Malinowski-Bal. “The governor understands the importance of the biomass industry as it pertains to the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard and the eradication of dead and dying trees from high hazard fire zones.”

“This law will provide some certainty to the biomass industry which has struggled due to antiquated contracts,” Malinowski-Bal continued. “Under SB 859, investor-owned utilities and large public-owned utilities must enter into five-year contracts for a portion of at least 125 megawatts of power from biomass facilities that generate electricity through the use of forest materials removed from specific high fire hazard zones.

“Most importantly, this law protects hundreds of jobs, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and promotes long-term forest management goals,” Malinowski-Bal said. “CBEA praises the governor and the Legislature for their ongoing support of the biomass industry.”