Biomass dominant in Ore.'s draft energy plan

By Anna Simet | June 06, 2012

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has released a draft of the state’s 10-year energy action plan, and it has a strong emphasis on nurturing the state’s burgeoning biomass energy industry.

Pointing out that the state is placing an increased focus on solar and biomass energy, the report says Oregon has a unique ability to lead in developing the next generation of biomass and cogeneration facilities, as forests cover nearly half of Oregon’s 63 million acres, and about 60 percent of those lands are managed by the federal government.  

The plan touches on how restoration activity done in federal and state forests will reduce risks of catastrophic fire and insect infestation, and at the same time immediately create rural jobs while providing a biomass source that can be utilized to generate heat and electricity or as a feedstock for liquid fuels.

In early 2011, according to the plan, co-chairs of Gov. Kitzhaber’s Forest Health & Biomass Energy Transition Team produced recommendations to the governor for the 2011 legislative session and beyond. Recommendations included: working with the state Environmental Protection Agency to avoid discrimination against biomass heat and power generation; preference for biomass boilers in retrofit programs; ensuring that energy incentives maintained support of community-scale biomass projects; excluding woody biomass from regulation of solid waste; and reauthorizing the biomass collector tax credit.

There are still a number of longer-term action items that must be pursued in order to build the industry, the report recognizes, stating that the Oregon’s Forest Biomass Working Group will soon release a more detailed set of recommendations to this end. “In addition, the governor’s office is adding resources to work with stakeholders and the federal government to maximize management strategies in our forests,” the report says. “In order to ultimately develop a robust restoration economy for rural Oregon and increase energy production from biomass, the state will focus incentives on building the energy production market.”

The plan suggests that the next legislature repurpose existing incentives relating to securing fuel supply to focus on capital investment in biomass energy production facilities. “The existing biomass collector tax credit has indeed been shown to increase economic activity in the sector,” it says. “Supporting capital investment in biomass energy facilities will drive market expansion. Thus, this plan proposes a shift of incentive investments from collection of fuel sources to investment in facilities such as institutional boilers and cogeneration facilities.”

The plan also calls for building retrofits and efficiency improvements on up to four million square feet of state-owned buildings and office space to improve their energy performance and help drive private sector investment, and proposes streamlined permitting for renewable energy facilities to provide more certainty for companies considering investments in Oregon. It recommends workforce development initiatives to ensure Oregonians have the skills and training necessary to land clean energy jobs.

To access the full plan, click here