Biomass industry welcomes CPP, seeks clarfication

The US biomass industry has largely welcomed the inclusion of biomass in President Obama's Clean Power Plan (CPP), but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must clarify the definition of "qualified biomass" in order to help boost the industry.

The US' largest wood pellet producer Enviva "applauded" the CPP and its "recognition of the role biomass can play in tackling climate change", Enviva chief executive John Keppler said.

US Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA) also welcomed the administration's recognition of biomass' role but "the new rules leave a layer of uncertainty over what kinds of biomass would and would not count", US Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA) executive director Seth Ginther said. USIPA is advocating for policy certainty and further clarification from the EPA and encourages its continuing work with the Scientific Advisory Board.

Concerns were voiced from the industry over the EPA's statement that it is "not scientifically valid to assume all biogenic feedstocks are carbon neutral". The American Wood Council called for the EPA to fully recognise the carbon neutrality of biomass, to reflect the energy benefits outlined in the biogenic accounting framework. The American Forest and Paper Association backed up those calls, adding that it wants to ensure the CPP and the proposed federal implementation plan "recognised [biomass energy from forest products] as a carbon benefit to the atmosphere".

USIPA believes US wood pellets produced from low-grade sustainably sourced fibre and exported to utilities in Europe would be deemed so-called qualified biomass. The Netherlands provides a positive example where co-firing of sustainably sourced wood pellets in coal power plants can help reduce emissions and create jobs, Ginther said. US wood pellet producer Fram Renewable Fuels president Harold Arnold confirmed they believed their wood pellets and dried material would be compliant with the plan.

Forest protection group Dogwood Alliance had hoped the EPA would categorically exclude biomass from the CPP but were thankful it "does not fully embrace burning wood for electricity". The non-governmental organisation (NGO) feels there are "still many questions to be answered" and called for the EPA to "exclude most feedstock besides the small-scale use of manufacturing waste and urban trimmings".

The CPP would require each state to meet a CO2 emissions target rate by 2030, which the EPA said will average a 32pc reduction in power plant emissions from 2005 levels, up from 30pc in the version proposed last year.

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