DBC launches North American forest sector study

By The Dutch Biomass Certification Foundation | March 21, 2017

The Dutch Biomass Certification Foundation has launched an extensive research study on the North American forest sector, with specific focus on small forest owners. DBC was established under the Dutch ‘Biomass Sustainability Covenant’ to promote and achieve certification among small forest owners in North America. To this end, DBC has begun the development of a Stimulation Program with a 3 million Euro budget. The research starting now is a first step in the implementation of the Stimulation Program.

The Biomass Sustainability Covenant states that 10 percentof the biomass used in cofiring for Dutch energy generation will be certified to the FSC or equivalent standard by 2023 at latest. To support this target, energy companies ENGIE (previously GDF-Suez), Uniper (previously E.ON), Vattenfall/Nuon and RWE have been tasked with establishing a foundation (DBC) to promote certification of small forest owners in North America. The research study, which will be led by US based Wood & Co. Consulting, will enable DBC to obtain the necessary data on the North-American forest sector (including data on small forest owners) in order to design the most effective program possible. This phase will also begin to build relationships with relevant and prospective stakeholders.

Most of the biomass that Dutch energy companies cofire, is in wood pellet form and originates from North American forests. Many of these forests are owned by small landowners and, while sustainably managed, often are not certified. DBC thus has the task to develop and implement a Stimulation Program to encourage higher levels of certification. The 3-million-euro Stimulation Program is financed by the four energy companies and will run till 2023 at which point 100 percent of the biomass used is expected to be certified. An annual reporting obligation will inform all Covenant signatories on the Program’s progress.

DBC was officially founded December 30, 2015, with the signing of the Articles of Association. In 2016, the organizational structure and function was established. The DBC Board includes representatives of the four energy companies. A seat is also available to the five environmental organizations that have signed the Covenant.

Also in 2016, DBC developed the Stimulation Program, in close coordination with experts and stakeholders. An initial Scoping Study was performed to identify certification opportunities in North America and two workshops were organized in Rotterdam (NL) and Miami (FL, USA) with participants from The Netherlands, USA and Canada.

The Netherlands has strict sustainability requirements on the use of biomass for cofiring in coal-fired power plants. Only biomass that meets these requirements is eligible for the Dutch subsidy program (SDE+). This ensures that the biomass used for energy production comes from forests where health and biodiversity are preserved or enhanced. The electricity production therefore has no negative impact and low CO2 emission levels per kWh.