Mass. DOER releases proposed final RPS regulations for biomass

By Lisa Gibson | April 27, 2012

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources has released its months-overdue proposed final regulations for the qualification of woody biomass under the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS). 

Among a number of changes from the draft regulations filed in May 2011, is an increase in the minimum efficiency mandate from 40 percent to 50 percent. Now, biomass plants will receive half a renewable energy credit (REC) upon reaching 50 percent efficiency, and one full credit beginning at 60 percent. “This provision fundamentally will shift biomass development from power-only generation units typically operating at efficiencies around 25 percent,” the DOER wrote in its summary of changes. “However, DOER does very much want to encourage the development of biomass units that demonstrate advancements in the conversion of biomass to energy, be it through advances in the conversion design, reductions in pollution emissions, or through the use of refined biomass fuels that advance the commercial opportunities of biomass energy.”

Many developers in Massachusetts have been waiting on the regulations before finalizing project plans, and most have anticipated adding a combined-heat-and-power component in order to reach efficiency mandates.

The DOER also made changes to the regulations in the areas of carbon accounting, biomass fuel certificates and certificate registry, annual compliance and provisions for under compliance, treatment of previously qualified biomass units, and eligible forest biomass and residue retention. Residue retention guidelines remain at a maximum of 30 percent of the weight of the forest products removed for highly productive soils, and 0 percent for poor soils. The agency did, however, modify the fuel eligibility and certificate guideline to more broadly and simply provide for forest sustainability and forest management objectives, it said. 

The changes were based on stakeholder and committee comments submitted on other drafts of the regulations, according to the DOER. A comment period on the proposed final regulations will be open from May 19 to June 18.

To view the changes and the entire document, or to get instructions for submitting comments, click here