California executive order on forest fires recognizes bioenergy

By Erin Voegele | May 16, 2018

On May 10, California Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order that aims to protect communities from wildfire and climate impacts. The California Biomass Energy Alliance said it is encouraged that Brown recognizes the importance of biomass energy.

Executive Order B-52-18 was issued in the face of the worst wildfires in California’s history. It aims to combat dangerous tree mortality, increase the ability of the state’s forests to capture carbon, and systematically improve forest management. 

“Devastating forest fires are a profound challenge to California,” Brown said. “I intend to mobilize the resources of the state to protect our forests and ensure they absorb carbon to the maximum degree.”

One component of the executive order directs the California Public Utilities Commission to “review and update its procurement programs for small bioenergy renewable generators to ensure long-term programmatic certainty for investor-owned utilities and project developers, as well as benefits to ratepayers.”

The CBEC has applauded Brown’s action, noting the executive order reaffirms the governor’s commitment to forest fire prevention and forest resiliency.

“Today, Governor Brown reaffirmed his commitment to protect the public from potential threatening wildfires by calling on his agencies and impacted stakeholders to move forward on a number of fronts to accomplish important goals,” said Julee Malinowski Ball, executive director of the CBEA. “This executive order identifies the important role California’s forests play in the carbon cycle and how changing climate conditions elevate the need to take further action. Ensuring the state disposes of excess forest biomass, including dead trees, to beneficial reuse projects such as biomass energy is an essential part of the plan.”

“CBEA is encouraged that the Governor recognizes the importance of biomass energy as it relates to addressing forest resiliency in our changing climate conditions,” she continued. “We will continue to work closely with the Governor, the Forest Service and all relevant federal, state and local agencies in order to carry out this vital action plan.” 

According to the CBEA, California’s current biomass energy plants use more than 1 million tons annually of excess forest wood waste as fuel that would otherwise be left to decay and serve as a fire hazard in the forest, or open burned. The CBEA also said that biomass energy plants provide significant environmental and economic benefits, particularly for economically and environmentally disadvantaged communities in the state.