Biomass is No Longer the �Unknown Renewable'

By Bob Cleaves
Formerly considered the unknown renewable, biomass became the central focus of the clean energy debate when policymakers recognized that it was essential to meeting a strong renewable electricity standard. Congress now has the opportunity to take meaningful action on climate change and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Biomass is the keystone to a national energy policy that can achieve both goals.

As the organization dedicated to expanding and advancing the use of clean, renewable biomass power, Biomass Power Association recently launched a full-scale education campaign to promote the economic and environmental benefits of biomass power. The organization is playing an active role in helping to shape energy and climate legislation. This legislation moving through Congress presents a tremendous opportunity to expand and advance the use of clean, renewable biomass power.

The first step to reducing greenhouse gases and achieving energy independence is a strong commitment to American sources of renewable energy. To help achieve this, the BPA is working in partnership with the RES-Alliance for Jobs, a coalition of businesses and organizations supporting an aggressive renewable electricity standard. In cooperation with the RES-Alliance, BPA is demonstrating how a renewable electricity standard of 25 percent can spur sustainable economic growth and investment and create thousands of new jobs in the renewable energy industries. The energy legislation currently being debated in Congress calls for a 15 percent renewable energy standard (RES) with loopholes and caveats that water down an already modest proposal. We have the resources to do better.

BPA actively engages policymakers and Congressional staff on how biomass power can bridge the gap to a more aggressive RES. Southeastern states that do not have a sustainable supply of wind or solar power can use biomass to meet the demands of a high renewable energy standard. Biomass power also produces electricity 24 hours a day seven days a week, allowing local utility companies to easily add the additional electricity into their base-load power supply. This reliability is the reason that biomass power holds the greatest potential for meeting a national RES.

While a meaningful RES remains the top priority, Congress must also take steps to level the playing field in the renewable sector by providing tax equity, or parity, in the production tax credit. For too long, biomass has been taxed at twice the rate of competing renewables such as wind and geothermal. This leaves biomass at a substantial competitive disadvantage. Congress should not pick winners and losers in the renewable energy industry, but instead give biomass the same tax credits as other renewable sources.

In addition to tax parity, it is essential that Congress extend the production tax credit for an additional five years for those plants that were awarded the credit in 2004, but could see it expire in 2009. These plants are the workhorses of America's existing renewable portfolio and should continue to receive the same support that other renewable technologies receive.

The BPA will continue to raise these important issues in Washington, D.C., by working closely with members, lawmakers, and a broad coalition of renewable energy organizations. Expanding the use of biomass power will create additional green energy jobs and greatly reduce greenhouse gases.

According to a Washington Post/ABC poll, 84 percent of Americans support a national RES. If Congress is serious about moving America toward a green economy, biomass power will light the path.

Bob Cleaves is president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association. To learn more about biomass power, please visit