The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

MA Proposes GHG Restrictions on Biomass Power

The Massachusetts governor's office last week said the biomass electricity industry must meet strict emissions standards if wood-fired power plants expect to earn renewable energy credits (RECs).

Gov. Deval L. Patrick and Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray proposed the restrictions before the Legislature this week after the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) revised the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to account for the findings of an independent study.

In June, the DOER-commissioned study by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences of Plymouth concluded that large-scale, biomass-fired electricity would create 3% more greenhouse emissions (GHG) than coal-fired plants by 2050.

“The product of rigorous scientific study and a robust public process, these regulations demonstrate, once again, that Massachusetts is way ahead of the pack nationally when it comes to clean energy policy,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. in a prepared statement.

Study Controversy

The Manomet study did not initially account for the benefits of burning waste wood, so biomass supporters dispute its findings.

“New restrictions on larger biomass facilities, proposed yesterday by the Patrick Administration, demonstrate a profound lack of understanding of our industry and the science behind it,” said Bob Cleaves, President and CEO of the Biomass Power Association, in a prepared statement. “The Administration continues to base its biomass policy on one flawed report.”

Nathanael Greene, a senior energy policy specialist with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), told Renewable Energy World that Patrick’s proposal would benefit the environment because it restricts timber harvests while requiring biomass producers to provide a carbon lifecycle analysis.

“Biomass can work for the climate in the right circumstances,” he said.

Before the proposed regulations, Massachusetts’ biomass electricity generators were eligible for Class I RECs, which trade for $15 to $20 per megawatt hour (MWh). Sullivan said REC funds are limited, so the DOER revised the RPS to ensure energy projects meet ambitious goals for GHG reductions.

Massachusetts, officially a commonwealth, is among the first states to regulate biomass emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency tabled the issue for three years when it announced in January a three-year deferral on GHG-permitting requirements.

But regulatory uncertainty in various states has led to the cancellation of many biomass power plants.

Massachusetts is also a clear battleground in the GHG controversies surrounding wood-fired electricity. The Biomass Accountability Project obtained 130,000 voter signatures to remove biomass from the RPS.

“While the DOER regulations don’t go far enough in completely removing dirty biomass smokestacks from the Renewable Portfolio Standard, we’re pleased that the Patrick Administration is moving in the right direction,” said Meg Sheehan, President of Biomass Accountability Project, in a prepared statement.

The Biomass Power Association’s Cleaves said the Patrick Administration was satisfying the complaints of “few individuals who have their facts wrong.”

“There is considerable scientific consensus indicating that biomass using wood waste materials releases far fewer GHG emissions and other harmful substances than fossil fuels,” Cleaves said.

DOER officials hope the restrictions will encourage the biomass industry to design smaller projects for combined heat and power (CHP) units, which can provide heat and electricity for industrial parks and community districts. The Manomet study found that CHP would reduce GHGs 25% by 2050.

Biomass-coal as Fuel

Massachusetts’ approach to biomass regulation differs dramatically from other states in the Southeast U.S., which leads the country in biomass power and wood pellet production. The North Carolina Utilities Commission approved renewable energy credits for wood chips from whole trees when combined with coal. Duke Energy’s lobbying effort for the credits was opposed by the Environmental Defense Fund.

The NRDC’s Greene said supplementing coal with biomass could reduce GHGs if the feedstock is not based whole trees.

“Wood is problematic because it takes so bloody long to grow, and there’s energy required for chipping and drying,” he said.

Burning coal and biomass efficiently is challenging, too. The Southern Research Institute’s Clean Energy Technology Development Center announced this week that its solution for Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) systems has improved the process of burning coal with biomass. The technology was developed through collaboration among the U.S. Department of Energy, Southern Research and Denmark-based TK Energi A/S.

According to a press release, the group’s prototype feeder creates a highly-compressed "plug" of coal and biomass that could ultimately become eligible for RECs. The material is comprised of bituminous and lignite coal, woody biomass, prairie grass and corn stover. Researchers said the plugs are a breakthrough for IGCC power plants because they can withstand 450 pounds per square inch of pressure as the material feeds into a gasifier.

Greene said Southern Research’s use of grass shows potential for acceptance by environmental groups.

“It’s possibly a good idea because of the quick carbon cycling with perennial grasses and agricultural residue,” Greene said. “Most of what we do today with woody biomass production is grossly inefficient.”


Untitled Document


UK sees 40% rise in power from on-site biogas

Tildy Bayar

The UK increased its power generation from on-site biogas plants by 40% in 2014, according to a survey by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.  

World Moves Toward 100 Percent Renewable Energy – First Electricity, Then Heating/Cooling, and Finally Transportation

Junko Movellan, Correspondent The exclusive use of energy from renewable resources in at least one sector has now become a feasible goal for 8 countries. Diane Moss, Founding Director of Renewables 100 Policy Institute, discussed this remarkable develop...

US Clean Power Plan Could Include Carbon Trading

Mark Drajem, Bloomberg Some businesses that back President Barack Obama’s plan to curb greenhouse gases are making a late lobbying push to add an element similar to a cap-and-trade program. With the administration set this week or next to unveil ...

Listen Up: Vampires Sucking Power from your House

The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World Here’s a nightmare for you: at night, when you’re asleep and you think things are quiet, there are vampires sucking power out of your house and increasing your electric bill. The fact of the matter is that every plugged in ...
Robert Crowe is a technical writer and reporter based in San Antonio, Texas. He has written for Bloomberg, the Houston Chronicle, Boston Herald,, San Antonio Express-News, Dallas Business Journal, and other publications. He ...


Volume 18, Issue 4


To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:


Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon



2015 AREDAY Summit

The 12th Annual AREDAY Summit, August 8-13th in Snowmass Colorado. Engag...

StartUp Green

AREI, American Renewable Energy Institute, in partnership with ...

SAP for Utilities

SAP for Utilities is North America’s most comprehensive utilities ...


New coating extends cylinder life 8 times longer than traditional c...

Hydroelectric turbine systems operate in extremely harsh conditions. The...

Clean Energy Patents Maintain High Levels in First Quarter, Solar L...

U.S. patents for Clean Energy technologies from the first quarter of 201...

SAP for Utilities Blog

The Eventful Group produces the annual SAP for Utilites Conference ...


Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now