California Biomass Energy Alliance supports new legislation

California Biomass Energy Alliance supports new legislation

CBEA Executive Director Julee Malinowski-Ball calls S.B. 859 language a “big win” for the biomass industry.

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September 19, 2016

California is feeling the effects of shuttered biomass plants. Six biomass plants have shut down in the last two years which has left millions of dead trees from drought with no place to go but landfills. The biomass industry blames cheaper, incentivized renewable energy sources like solar and wind from taking utility business away from it. But new legislation is expected to help breathe new life into biomass.

During its August 2016 legislative session, the California State Legislature passed measures that will require utilities to use biomass.

According to Julee Malinowski-Ball, executive director of the California Biomass Energy Alliance (CBEA), the new legislation is a “big win” for the biomass industry.

A few days before the end of the legislative session, language was put into California Senate Bill 859, which would require the state’s largest utilities, both public and private, to procure 125 megawatts (MW) of biomass power from mostly the forested zones deemed high hazard zones. This is in addition to a 50-megawatt requirement the California Public Utilities Commission placed on the state’s three largest investor-owned utilities.

“The big deal in my mind is that the California state legislature acknowledged No. 1 that there is a problem out there with organics management—today it just happens to be in the forestry sector—and they acknowledged biomass infrastructure is part of the solution.”

She notes the legislation is more focused than initially the industry was hoping for as it did not address agriculture waste and urban organic waste but says it is “an excellent start.”

“Though that facility mostly is taking forest material, there may be room for it to take other types of material, so that fact that a facility is open is really the first hurdle,” Malinowski-Ball says, adding, “The key here is this is the beginning of a conversation. This win is wonderful, but it really needs to be the beginning not the end of the conversation of biomass infrastructure as part of organics management in California.”

California Gov. Edmund Brown is expected to sign the legislation by his Sept. 30 deadline. Utilities would have until Dec. 1 to meet the requirement.