Town to sell vacant school to pellet plant developer

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From WCSH Portland

By Kayla Binette

MATTAWAMKEAG, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — After rejecting a plan to sell a vacant school in Mattawamkeag to a medical marijuana dispensary, the town will decide the fate of a new buyer.

The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Monday night to approve David Kidwell’s proposal to turn the former Dr. Carl Troutt School into a small-scale wood pellet manufacturing facility.

Back in January, voters rejected to sell the school to a medical marijuana dispensary in a 52 to 22 vote because many thought it would draw more crime to the area.

If this new potential buyer is approved, John Whitehouse, the selectmen chairman, said the company would employ as many as a dozen people.

“So far, the only responses I’ve personally heard, are good. They like the idea of jobs coming to the area, it’s something that’s needed. There’s been some shortages of wood pellets in the area, so it’s a win-win, I think,” he said.

Whitehouse said the selectmen favored Kidwell’s $50,000 proposal to buy the building, while the town of Mattawamkeag would still own the athletic fields in front of the school. If approved, Kidwell plans on using the gymnasium for the pellet machines, while the remainder of the building would be used for offices and a machine shop.

“For every job you create, there’s a web that goes out to people that affects them – the woods industry, people in the local stores – of course it will be positive for the town because it will be something on the tax rolls,” said Whitehouse.

There will be a special town meeting Saturday, March 14 where residents will be able to voice an concern they might have before voting on the proposal. The meeting is expected to start at noon at the town office.

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Project aims to help Adirondack residents switch to pellet heat

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By Northern Forest Center

Financial and technical assistance that has helped homeowners and businesses in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont successfully switch to high-efficiency wood pellet heating is now available to Adirondack homeowners and businesses through the Adirondack Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative.

The Adirondack Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative, a program of the Northern Forest Center, will provide financial incentives for wood pellet boiler installations to 20 homeowners living in Saranac, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake in New York. It will also provide funds to install 15 wood pellet boilers in municipal and non-residential buildings in Essex, Franklin and Clinton counties, with preference given to projects in Saranac, Saranac Lake, and Tupper Lake.

 “This one project will do three significant things,” said Maura Adams, program director for the Northern Forest Center. “It will help businesses and homeowners lower their heating costs; it will increase demand for wood pellets, which supports jobs in our forest-based businesses; and it will keep money circulating in the local economy rather than being exported. For every dollar we spend on heating oil, 78 cents leaves the local economy. When we buy wood pellets, every dollar stays here.”
Over the 25-year life of the wood pellet boilers installed through this project, participants will reduce fossil fuel use by the equivalent of 1.4 million gallons of oil. By purchasing wood pellets instead of oil, participants will help keep more than $5 million in the regional economy and generate about $11 million in positive economic impact.

Through community-based clusters of high-efficiency, low-emission wood pellet boiler installations, the project is designed to show that clean-burning wood pellet heating systems can completely replace oil and propane boilers. The project demonstrates the reliability and cost savings of bulk-fed, high-efficiency pellet boilers in non-residential buildings and homes.
The Northern Forest Center is partnering with the Adirondack North Country Association, Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and other organizations to launch the Adirondack Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative. Funding for the program comes from the Northern Border Regional Commission, the Overhills Foundation, and private individuals. NYSERDA also provided support through Governor Cuomo’s Cleaner, Greener Communities Program, which encourages local communities across the state to become more sustainable and energy efficient.

Jerry Delaney, a town councilor for Saranac, chairman of the Adirondack Local Government Review Board and member of the Northern Forest Center board of directors, is a longtime supporter of using locally-sourced wood for heat. “I think the Adirondacks is one of the most beautiful places in the world,” said Delaney, “and everything I do in my public service is to make it a better place to live and a less expensive place too. Using modern wood heat will create jobs, reduce the cost of heating and keep our working forests working. It ties back into using our historic resources, maintaining traditional jobs and keeping the heritage of the region alive and well.”

For non-residential participants, the Adirondack Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative will provide up to $15,000 of the cost to install a wood pellet heating system, with a goal of completing 15 installations during the 2-year project. Non-residential projects are considered on a rolling basis. Municipal buildings will be given preference. For residential participants, the Adirondack Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative will provide up to $10,000 for installation of qualified wood pellet heating systems.
“This is a great opportunity for anyone in our region who wants to lower their heating costs and switch to a local, renewable source for their heat,” said Kate Fish, ANCA’s executive director.  “Oil heat is expensive for businesses and families in our climate. Switching to pellet boilers will reduce heating expenses and create demand for a local, renewable energy source. Buying our energy locally is a sustainable way to support our economy.”

The project will use a competitive process and requires an application to be completed for consideration.  Building owners selected for the project will be required to complete a free energy assessment through a designated provider recognized by the Building Performance Institute as a BPI GoldStar Contractor.

The Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative is part of the Northern Forest Center’s renewable energy program, which is building the market for high-efficiency, low-emission wood pellet boilers for homes and small-scale commercial installations in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York and advocating for supportive public policies on the state and federal levels.
“The Adirondack Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative will help encourage the use of cleaner wood heating technologies and a locally-grown, renewable fuel resource,” said John B. Rhodes, president and CEO of NYSERDA. “In the North Country, where winters are cold and wood is plentiful, Governor Cuomo’s Renewable Heat NY program will help local residents and businesses to take advantage of this new class of high-efficiency technologies.”

New York State is advancing new, energy-efficient, low-emission wood heating technology through Renewable Heat NY, which encourages growth of the high-efficiency, low-emission biomass heating industry. The Renewable Heat NY program also supports quicker development of this industry, raises consumer awareness, supports New York-based advanced technology heating products, and encourages local sustainable heating markets.

“The Adirondack Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative is a great success in Berlin, New Hampshire, where 40 homeowners and two non-profits have saved more than $160,000 on fuel and generated more than $612,000 in positive economic impact for the regional economy since early 2012,” said Adams. “In Farmington and Wilton, Maine, 21 homeowners, two churches and two businesses have taken advantage of the project so far to switch from oil to wood pellet heat.”

The “model” neighborhood concept creates a geographic concentration of pellet boiler users that helps develop the pellet delivery systems, installation and maintenance support that will make it easier for others to switch to pellet heating and will allow the community to experience the convenience and savings of the high-efficiency pellet boilers.  

Other benefits of the project include strengthening markets for low-grade wood, which provides a financial incentive to forestland owners to keep their forests intact, and opportunities to stabilize and increase employment in forest-based businesses.
The Northern Forest Center helps create economic opportunity and community vitality from healthy working forests in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.  Additional resources and application materials are available on the Northern Forest Center website.
 

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Pellet Plant VOCs: Best Practices In Control

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Since the EPA decided many years ago that volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions must be controlled, state agencies and pellet plant operations, along with many others, have gone about the task of making it happen.

By Malcolm Swanson | February 27, 2015

To people outside the forest products industries, it is surprising to learn that the nice fresh pine fragrance our noses detect around a wood pellet plant is actually evidence of emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  Since the EPA decided many years ago that VOC emissions must be controlled, state agencies and pellet plant operations, along with many others, have gone about the task of making it happen.  Wood naturally releases VOCs whether it is still standing in the forest, being harvested, or processed into a product such as wood pellets.  The natural VOC release is accelerated when heat is applied, as in a drying process, or when more fiber surface is exposed, as in size reduction via hammer milling.  Also, forming the dried wood dust into pellets tends to release more VOCs, because of the application of a significant amount of energy to the material and the resulting temperature rise.

Accelerated VOC release in the pellet making process is not only an emissions issue but it also represents a loss of energy from the pellets.  VOCs are natural chemical compounds that have energy content.  Obviously then, the better job we can do of minimizing the release of VOCs from the wood, the higher the energy content of the pellets.  So, the best means of VOC emission control is to, as much as possible, avoid releasing these valuable compounds from the wood in the first place.

Of course, regardless of how we process the wood into pellets, some VOCs will be released from the wood.  To keep the plant operation in environmental compliance, the VOCs released from the wood must be contained and controlled within the plant system.  There are two fundamental approaches to VOC control.  The most widely used approach is to incinerate the VOCs in a regenerative thermal oxidizers (RTO) or regenerative catalytic oxidizer (RCO) at the plant’s exhaust points.  A wet  Electrostatic Precipitator (WESP) is typically used upstream to reduce the contamination that occurs in the RTOs and RCOs.  This method is necessary when using the conventional convection type rotary dryers.  A newer approach involves using a hot oil tube dryer, operating with a hot oil temperature of about 500 degrees Fahrenheit (vs. the 1,100 F hot gas temperature of the convection dryers), to remove water while removing less of the hemicellulose.  The various compounds that make up hemicellulose are those that, when evaporated in the drying process, become VOCs.  These compounds have relatively low boiling points, so, the drying temperature makes a difference in the mass of VOCs liberated.

There is a significant difference in the economics of the pellet-making operation between these two different approaches to the VOC emissions issue.  The WESPs, RTOs or RCOs required with the conventional dryer systems are major pieces of capital equipment. They must be maintained and require fuel and electricity to operate.  By contrast, VOC control is incidental with the hot oil tube dryer.  No additional special equipment or capital equipment is needed.  Also, no purchased fossil fuel is needed.  In fact, the VOCs that are evaporated from the wood in drying, although not a lot, are used as part of the fuel to run the drying process.  So, instead of VOC destruction adding expense, it actually reduces operating cost.

One large plant has a natural gas cost of $1.25 per metric ton of pellets or $625,000 per year for 500,000 tons.  By contrast, the hot oil tube dryer system burns no fuel at all for destruction of VOCs.

In addition to the avoiding the cost of fuel and maintenance for WESP or RTO type systems, a benefit is found simply keeping in the pellets what would, in the convection dryer systems, become VOCs.  Hemicellulose has a higher heating value of 13.6 megajoules per kilogram, so, it has an energy content that is worth keeping. To determine the quantity of the VOCs being released from the wood in the pellet-making process, consider what EPA’s document, AP42, shows as the uncontrolled emission factor for condensables from the drying process of particle board making.  (EPA considers this the process most similar to pellet making.)  AP42 shows 1.1 pounds per ton. (See AP42, 10.6.2.)  For a pellet plant producing 500,000 tons of pellets per year, the uncontrolled dryer emissions of condensables would be 550,000 pounds per year. Although experience shows that the pellets actually have a little more energy per ton when the material is dried in a hot oil tube dryer, the simplest way to show some value to this is just to consider that the 550,000 pounds per year of mass largely ends up in the pellets. That means, in effect, that a producer would have an extra 250 tons per year to sell.  Since the cost of the overhead, material, and production are there either way, the entire sales price of $45,000 goes straight to the bottom line as net profit.

Going back to EPA’s AP42 emission factor for condensable VOCs, we see that it is just that, condensable VOCs.  Also, it shows only the VOCs from the drying process.  The total mass is easily twice this amount when we include noncondensables and emissions from other steps of the process such as dry hammer milling, pelletizing, and cooling.  Because the hot oil tube dryer has a hot oil heater combustion chamber available in which to burn VOCs, noncondensables are scavenged from their various sources and used almost entirely as fuel for the drying process.  This means that either some of the incoming green wood that would otherwise be used as fuel isn’t used that way and is, therefore, available to become pellets, or some purchased fossil fuel is not needed.  In either case, a conservative way to apply a value to this is to say it is about the same as the additional pellet value associated with the condensables.  So, the total additional pellet sales will be about $90,000.  Again, this total goes straight to the bottom line because all costs are already there.

As briefly mentioned above, retaining as much as possible in the pellets rather than evaporating it results in a higher energy content in the pellets. The jury is still out on exactly how much advantage, since it is virtually impossible to get a valid direct comparison but it appears to be on the order of 0.5 gigajoules per ton. Since this is anecdotal information at this point, the value is not included in the following totals.

The maintenance cost for the WESPs and RTOs and associated equipment is around $2.25 per ton or about $1,125,000 per year.  The capital cost of the equipment is about $13 million. 

This rather simplistic analysis does not attempt to address the cost of downtime associated with regularly washing the ceramic elements of the RTOs, etc. So, there is considerably more money that could be added to this bottom-line advantage calculation, if one wanted to take the time to work it out. Obviously, the assumption is made here that the capital cost and maintenance cost of the two different dryer islands (not the back end pollution controls) are at least similar.  That may or may not be true, but there is no doubt that WESPs and RTOs or RCOs are required with the convection type dryers and are not required for the hot oil tube dryer systems. 

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Lignetics, Bear Mountain Forest Products announce merger

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By Bear Mountain Forest Products

The two longest running wood pellet manufacturing companies in the U.S. have announced a merger that will create the largest residential wood pellet fuel producer in the United States. Ken Tucker, CEO of Lignetics Inc. and Bob Sourek, CEO of Bear Mountain Forest Products Inc., announced that the two companies have completed a merger, creating a company that will now have a production capacity of approximately 450,000 tons of wood pellets per year. The company will also be the only pellet manufacturing company that will have wood pellet manufacturing plants on both the East Coast and the West Coast. The combined company will have plant locations in Brownsville, Oregon; Cascade Locks, Oregon; Sandpoint, Idaho; Glenville, West Virginia; and Kenbridge, Virginia. The merger brings together some of the industry’s most well-known brands including Golden Fire, Lignetics, Bear Mountain, America’s Best, Pres-to-Log, Dry Den, Cozy Den and EZ Equine.

“Completing this merger marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in our two companies’ history, making us the market leader in the residential wood pellet industry in the U.S.,” Tucker said.

Bob Sourek added, “We are excited about the merger with Lignetics and the ability to offer all of our customers a more diverse product offering, now from five different plant locations.”

In addition to having the market leading, high quality brands of wood fuel pellets (Golden Fire, Lignetics, Bear Mountain, America’s Best and Pres-to-Logs), the array of products that the combined company will be able to offer its customer base is now even more diverse. In the animal bedding category, products feature the patented Dry Den Animal Bedding Pellets with Zeolites, the EZ Equine 100 percent All Natural Pine Animal Bedding Pellet, and Cozy Den Premium Shavings in both pine and cedar. In the product category of fire logs and bricks, the featured products are Bear Mountain Bear Bricks and Pres-to-Logs fire logs, which have been on store shelves since the 1980’s. Additionally, the merger will strengthen the companies’ position in the BBQ pellet market with increased production and distribution of Bear Mountain BBQ Pellets.

Financing for the transaction was provided by Taglich Private Equity LLC, management and Gladstone Capital Corp., which provided subordinated debt and equity financing, along with Texas Capital Bank, who provided senior debt in support of the transaction. Tucker and Sourek also noted that the transaction will give the company the capital base to pursue expansion plans at their current facilities, as well as exploring potential future add-on acquisitions. Tucker noted, “We are excited about the growth opportunities in our business and believe we have chosen excellent financial partners to support us in our goal of being the largest and highest quality residential wood pellet manufacturing company in the U.S.”

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Montana Group Turning Waste into Biofuel

From Domestic Fuel.com

A group from Montana is turning waste into biodiesel. This story from KBZK-TV in Bozeman says Full Circle Biofuels in that city is making the used cooking grease from restaurants into the green fuel.

“Restaurants will have this and they will dump their used fryer oil into here. And then we’ll come and pump it out of this little hole on top whenever they’re full,” Full Circle Biofuels director Jesse Therien said.

Therien turns that waste into something people can use: biodiesel. It’s an alternative to petroleum-based diesel, with some added benefits like reduced emissions.

“It’s biodegradable, it’s nontoxic, it’s renewable and ours in particular is made from recycled materials,” Therein said.
Therien collects used fryer oil from more than 60 restaurants in Bozeman and Belgrade. “Right now we’re bringing in about 4,000 gallons a month but that is likely to double in the next little while. We have all the Walmarts in the state and then Cody, Wyoming as well,” he said.

The company says a school district and the city there have approached it to make biodiesel to go into buses and snow plows.

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North American pellet exports reached a new record high in Q3

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By Wood Resources International LLC | February 09, 2015

Pellet exports from North America rose in the third quarter of 2014 after a stable first half of the year that could be characterized as a temporary plateau. While pellet exports to Europe were up just marginally, the increase to Asia was more noticeable. Up until 2014, more than 95 percent of wood pellets leaving US and Canadian ports were destined for Europe.

However, during 2014 there was a shift in Canadian exports from Europe to Asia, with pellet plants in British Columbia shipping record volumes to South Korea during the third quarter of 2014, as reported in the North American Wood Fiber Review. (Note. Due to irregularities with Customs data, NAWFR collects trade data from a number of sources including Canadian and US customs export data, European import data and from quarterly conversations with both pellet exporters and port contacts.)

Total Canadian overseas pellet exports rose slightly in the third quarter of 2014 from the previous quarter, but they were still 15 percent below their high of over half a million tons in the last quarter of 2013. Shipments from both Western and Eastern Canada to Europe fell in the first three quarters of 2014; in the third quarter of 2014, shipments were at their lowest level since 2011. Export volumes for the Asian market have followed a more positive trend, with increased shipments for six consecutive quarters.

British Columbia’s pellet shipments overseas will likely remain stable during most of 2015 until the first of five announced pellet mills starts commercial operation late in 2015 or early 2016. There are currently plans to add over 800,000 tons of pellet capacity in the province during 2015/16 with South Korea being the target market (read more about the expansion plans in the NAWFR, www.woodprices.com).

In the US, pellet exports continue to be dominated by bulk shipments out of the U.S. South to Europe, with only minor container volumes primarily shipped from the U.S. West Coast to Asia. The U..S overseas pellet exports rose to over 1 million tons in the third quarter of 2014, with the growth in shipments having continued without pause since late in 2011.

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Weedy Grasses as Pellet Fuel Feedstock: Research Update

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by Gregory Zimmerman, Dept of Biology, Lake Superior State University

From Great Lake Phragmites Collaborative

For the past several years, our research team has been experimenting with the use of weedy grasses for making heating pellets(to be used to heat your home). The focus of the project is to find economic uses for these weedy grasses as well as reduce greenhouse gas inputs into the atmosphere and improve farm finances. The environmental benefits come from the fact that the fuel is more carbon neutral since combustion of grasses simply re-releases previous year’s CO2 taken up by the plants, so long as the harvest and fuel manufacture have minimal energy inputs. Our research suggests a 32x energy payback in fuel compared to the fuel required to harvest and process the grasses. Perennial grasses are also more environmentally benign energy sources since they require no annual tillage, thus reducing energy input and conserving soil carbon. Unlike wood sources, grasses harvested in late fall require little drying during the fuel making process which further reduces the carbon inputs into the fuel making process. Late harvests also conserve soil nutrients since the plants are harvested after translocating nutrients to the roots. The economic benefit to farms is the use of readily available fuel stock using commonly available equipment most likely already on hand, all at a savings compared to the price of propane (the most common heating fuel on farms).

The project was initiated with reed canary grass (RCG). Using a tractor PTO mounted horizontal die pelletizer, we can make nice pellets from RCG. We have been successful using spent brewer’s grain, and with a commercial binder (essentially cornstarch) and even corrugated cardboard. Other attempts at using pond algae, pine needles, and other materials were not successful.

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Biomass Industry Welcomes Record Pellet Demand in Northeast

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From Pellet Fuels Institute

Biomass Industry Welcomes Record Pellet Demand in Northeast
Consumers encouraged to smartly plan pellets purchases for winter season to avoid oversupply

Washington, DC – October 29, 2014 – The biomass industry today announced that it is experiencing record demand for wood pellet heating fuel in the United States, particularly in the Northeastern region. The Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI) and the Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC) commended consumers for planning their pellet purchasing in preparation for the winter season. The two groups highlighted the importance of purchasing pellets at a steady pace to avoid demand spikes.
“Last winter was especially cold and long, particularly in the Northeast, and many pellet fuels consumers are planning ahead to be prepared for this season,” said Jennifer Hedrick, Executive Director of PFI. “At this time it’s important for consumers to recognize that purchasing large amounts of pellets that exceed their likely demand for the heating season could result in a personal surplus at the end of the season.”
Many winter forecasts have been adjusted in recent weeks to reflect warmer conditions than originally predicted, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration has estimated household expenditures for winter heating fuels will decrease for 2014-2015.
“We’re seeing an impressive demand for woody biomass for residential heating across the United States. Producers and retailers throughout the country are delivering the renewable fuel from regions with strong supply to regions with the highest demand. We’re excited to see this pellet delivery network developing around the country, while the pellet fuels industry is further adjusting its output to meet this growing market,” said Joseph Seymour, Executive Director of BTEC.
Heating residences and businesses with renewable biomass is cost-effective and becoming increasingly popular around the country. Well over one million homes across the country have installed pellet heating appliances, and approximately 2.5 million homes heat primarily with wood. Heating with wood has historically been cheaper than heating with electricity and fossil fuels such as heating oil and propane.

The Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI) is a North American trade association based in Arlington, Virginia, that represents a range of contributors to the pellet industry, including companies that manufacture wood pellets and pellet manufacturing equipment, or provide other products and services to the densified biomass industry at large. To learn more, please visit PFI’s website at www.pelletheat.org.
The Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC) is an association of biomass fuel producers, appliance manufacturers and distributors, supply chain companies and non-profit organizations that view biomass thermal energy as a renewable, responsible, clean and energy-efficient pathway to meeting America’s energy needs. BTEC engages in research, education, and public advocacy for the fast growing biomass thermal energy industry. For more information, visit www.biomassthermal.org.

 

PFI: Carrie Annand, 202-494-2493 or annand@pelletheat.org
BTEC: Emanuel Wagner, 202-596-3974 x 360 or Emanuel.wagner@biomassthermal.org

Colorado lawmakers introduce biomass, energy bills

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From Biomass Magazine

By Erin Voegele

Several energy-related bills were introduced in the Colorado Senate in early January, including one that aims to create an incentive program to promote the use of woody biomass in public buildings.

On Jan. 7, State Sen. Matt Jones introduced SB15-009. The legislation aims create a wood biomass grant program to promote the use of woody biomass as a fuel source for public buildings. According to the text of the bill, the program would be funded by an annual $1 million transfer from the state’s general fund for five fiscal years. The Colorado Department of Natural Resources would be tasked with awarding grants to a public entity that would “use woody biomass as a fuel source for a public building’s biomass energy system when either the use of the grant allows the public building to be cost-effective when compared with other fuels or the executive director reasonably believes that making the grant provides other substantial benefits as specified in rules.”

The legislation explains that preference would be made for projects that use a woody biomass energy system for two or more public buildings located near one another. The legislation also specifies rules for the grant program would include criteria to evaluate grant applications, in part, based on an analysis of whether the building is located within a reasonable distance of a forested area of the state, as determined by the state forester.

The bill was referred to the Colorado Senate Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy. The measure is also sponsored by Colorado Rep. Millie Hamner.

A separate bill, SB15-044, introduced on Jan. 7 by State. Sen. Scoot Ray aims to alter Colorado’s renewable energy standard, reducing the minimum percentage of renewable energy required of investor-owned utilities from 20 percent to 15 percent for 2015 through 2019. The minimum would also be reduced from 30 percent to 15 percent for years 2020. In addition, the bill would reduce the minimum amounts for cooperative electric associations from 20 percent to 15 percent for years 2020 and thereafter. That bill was also referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy. According to information published by the Colorado General Assembly, the bill as six additional sponsors in the Colorado Senate and is sponsored by State Rep. Dan Thurlow in the Colorado House of Representatives.

A third energy-related bill introduced Jan. 7 also aims to alter the state’s renewable energy standard. The legislation, SB15-046, would allow utilities to count each kWh of electricity obtained through retail distributed generation as 3 kWh for proposes of meeting the state renewable energy standards in 2020. The legislation would also allow cooperative electric associations to use purchases from community solar gardens to meet the retail distributed generation component of the renewable energy standard. SB15-046 was introduced by State Sen. Kevin Grantham and referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy. The legislation currently shows no sponsors in the Colorado House.

A Call for Transparency in Dutch Sustainability Rulemaking

From Biomass Magazine

By Seth Ginther

Seth Ginther says transparency is key to effective policymaking when developing sustainability criteria for solid biomass. The Netherlands began this process behind closed doors, initiating an industry call to open the process to the public.

The industrial wood pellet industry has spent the past several years working closely with policymakers at the European Union level and within its member states on developing sustainability criteria for solid biomass. 

Transparency in these processes is key to effective policymaking.  In fact, the World Trade Organization agrees with that concept, and one of the tenets of its Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement is that the signatory countries to the TBT will undertake any regulatory standards making process, including sustainability criteria, in an open and transparent manner with public consultation and input. 

In that vein, when the United Kingdom, a signatory to the TBT, developed its sustainability criteria for solid biomass, it did so by involving all stakeholders, keeping the process open to the public. The U.K. government went about its work in a very public manner issuing a number of consultations through the U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change.  The public was provided with drafts of various proposals and was given time to provide comment on those proposals.  That process culminated with the most robust set of sustainability criteria on solid biomass ever enacted, and those criteria ensure delivery of a sustainable product, while also being reasonable and workable within North American forest products markets. 

Let’s contrast that process and its result with earlier this year, when the Netherlands began its process of creating sustainability criteria for solid biomass.  Unlike the U.K. government, Netherlands, which is also a signatory to the TBT and therefore legally required to have a transparent rulemaking process, decided to establish its sustainability criteria for solid biomass through a closed and secretive process that does not allow for any stakeholder consultation or public engagement or comment. 

The Dutch government has failed to publish any form of public stakeholder consultation at any point over the past several months, nor has it released an official draft of any proposal, making it impossible for civil society to comment on those drafts. 

Instead, civil society has been forced to rely upon a secretive expert group on sustainability to try to reach an agreement on criteria. As of this writing, that secretive expert group has failed to reach an agreement and we understand that Minister Henk Kamp, the Dutch Minister for Economic Affairs will have to make some decisions on his own. We now call on Minister Kamp to do what he should have done all along—abide by the binding obligations of the TBT and open up the process for establishing sustainability criteria for solid biomass. 

We call upon the Netherlands to open the process to all stakeholders and the public. We stand ready to work closely with the Netherlands on developing sustainability criteria that satisfies both environmental and economic considerations. To move forward with the current closed process only harms the credibility of the Dutch government in the global marketplace and hinders the ability of the Netherlands to meet its EU-mandated renewable energy targets.