Massachusetts Adopts Biowaste Renewable Energy Definition For RPS

Massachusetts Defines Bioaste Role in Meeting Renewable Energy Targets04 September 2012

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has adopted the final Massachusetts Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) Class I regulations, implementing changes to biomass energy eligibility, and defining classifications for a range of biowastes and the regulations governing their use in renewable energy.

Under the newregulations biomass eligible to be considered as a fuel includes a variety of waste wood sources, as well as animal and crop wastes.

The DOER  said that the adoption of the final regulations follows over two years of evaluation, public input, and careful consideration of how best to utilise woody biomass resources for energy in a manner consistent with the Commonwealth’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect forests.

The department added that the enactment of the regulation now ends the moratorium on the qualification of woody biomass for the RPS Class I that it imposed in December 2009. Massachusetts’ RPS program requires all retail electricity suppliers in the Commonwealth to obtain a minimum percentage of their supply from eligible renewable energy generation sources.

The department said that following the passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) in 2008 – requiring reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across the economy of 80% by 2050 – DOER hired non-profit, non-advocacy organisation, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, to study the long-term greenhouse gas implications of utilising biomass for electrical energy generation.

According to the DOER it began this regulatory process with the goal of incorporating greenhouse gas emissions requirements consistent with the GWSA as part of eligibility for the RPS.

The department said that the final regulations establish the following:

  • Define eligible woody biomass fuels, including classifications as either residues or thinned trees, while ensuring sustainable forest resources, and protecting habitats and ecological functions. The
    determination of volume of harvest residues that must be retained on a harvest site is based on soil productivity
  • Require all woody biomass units to achieve a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over 20 years as compared to a combined cycle natural gas unit
  • Establish an electronic certificate registry to track and verify eligible biomass fuel supplies and differentiate between wood derived from residues and forest thinnings
  • Mandate a minimum operating efficiency, inclusive of electric and thermal outputs, of 50% to receive one half of a renewable energy credit (REC) with the ability to receive a full REC at an efficiency of 60%
  • Create a special category of biomass units deemed to be advancing the technology that will be eligible for half-RECs at an efficiency of 40%
  • Require a Forest Impact Assessment every five years to review program implementation and any impacts on forests and markets as well as an Advisory Panel to review tracking and enforcement mechanisms.

DOER Commissioner, Mark Sylvia commented: “Through this regulation and other initiatives, DOER believes there is a role for biomass energy in the Commonwealth focused on high efficiency use of the limited sustainable wood resource.”

The final regulation can be viewed HERE

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