Limits on Biomass Energy Proposed


"Yesterday, biomass industry officials decried the proposed rules."

Boston Globe, Beth Daley

Rules that would make constructing large wood-burning power plants in Massachusetts much more difficult were proposed yesterday by the Patrick administration. If made final, the regulations could mean three proposed large biomass plants in the state would not be built, as they'd no longer be eligible for renewable energy credits that made them more competitive with traditional power sources. However, smaller electricity-generating plants that also use the heat are eligible and could be built.

"I suspect the [large-scale] power-generating-only facilities are not going to like these new regulations, because they won't be efficient enough to qualify for any" renewable credits, said Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard Sullivan. But he said the rules were the product of "rigorous scientific study and a robust public process."

The proposed regulations will be reviewed by the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy for 30 days, before being reviewed for another 30 days by the Department of Energy Resources. That agency will then file the final rules, to take effect early this summer.

While expected, the proposed rules are a stunning reversal for a power source the state once celebrated as so environmentally friendly it was considered a critical tool to battle manmade climate change. Wood burning has been promoted as a green energy source because growing forests can absorb the same amount of heat-trapping gases emitted by burning wood, essentially canceling out the pollutants.

But a 2010 state-commissioned study revealed a far different story, one that concluded the plants released more heat-trapping carbon dioxide per unit of energy than oil, coal or natural gas, and that greenhouse gases can take a far longer time for forests to absorb than previously thought.

Yesterday, biomass industry officials decried the proposed rules, saying MA's decision could have far-reaching consequences for other renewable energy sources.

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