More and more communities are beginning to realize that biomass energy projects represent risky and costly investments as well as significant risks to public health, safety and the environment and are taking action. In fact, the Stop Spewing Carbon Campaign obtained 130,000 voter signatures to remove biomass from the Massachusetts Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) that give special tax credits to these types of incinerators.
The results: Massachusetts, where there are several planned projects, has just taken action to inhibit or in some cases prevent biomass energy projects. Read the press Release from the Energy Justice Network below:
For Immediate Release May 3, 2011
Massachusetts Biomass Regulations Curtailing Biomass Energy Will Protect Ratepayers and Taxpayers
The new Massachusetts biomass regulations issued yesterday will severely restrict Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) for biomass electricity under the state Renewable Portfolio Standard. The regulations reflect a shift away from biomass combustion as “renewable” energy as the facts about its negative fiscal, health and environmental impacts come to light.
“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 environmental attorney Meg Sheehan, President of Biomass Accountability Project and Chair of the Stop Spewing Carbon Campaign. The Campaign obtained 130,000 voter signatures to remove biomass from the RPS.
Biomass opponents say the new regulations will benefit ratepayers and taxpayers because investors will be deprived of the financial benefit of the RECs. Eliminating RECs for biomass means the typical 50 megawatt biomass project loses $10 million in annual income. “Without being able to force ratepayers to cover that $10 million annual cost, the projects are not financially viable,” said Sheehan. Opponents say stopping these projects also saves federal taxpayer money since biomass electricity collects billions of dollars every year from the federal government in the form of cash grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), tax credits, and loan guarantees. Five controversial proposed biomass electricity projects in Massachusetts will most likely be cancelled.
“Getting biomass electricity out of the RPS is a win-win for taxpayers, ratepayers, the public health and the environment,” said Sheehan. “There is no reason the public should be forced to subsidize biomass energy that is dirtier than coal. These projects are foundering everywhere because they are not financially sound and the public realizes that clean energy does not come out of a smokestack.”
Last week in Wisconsin, the state Public Service Commission said a proposed 50 megawatt project placed an “unacceptably high” cost burden on ratepayers, and costs of biomass were “getting into the ballpark of a nuclear power plant.” The state told Wisconsin’s utility to shave the cost of the biomass project. Joint venture Duke/Areva/ADAGE cancelled plans for Port of Shelton, last month following a public outcry, claiming the decision “was made by the marketplace.”
The new Massachusetts regulations will prevent biomass facilities operating at less than 40% efficiency from receiving full RECs—they would receive half credits—with full credits awarded for 60% efficiency or higher. Biomass power facilities currently achieve 25-30% efficiency, while combined heat and power reach 70% and thermal applications can reach 90%. The 5 current projects cannot meet the efficiency standards, according to opponents. One shortcoming in the regulations, say opponents, is that they do not provide adequate limits on the amount of wood that can be taken from forests to burn for electricity. The final regulations eliminated a provision that restricted removal to 15% by weight.
Sheehan and other biomass opponents are disappointed that the regulations allow partial RECs. “You either make the cut, or you don’t,” said Sheehan, “biomass can’t be done right – and it’s simple – clean energy doesn’t come out of a smokestack and these incinerators have no place in the RPS.”
The new Massachusetts regulations are posted at