BTEC summit: Encouraging signs for the biomass thermal industry

By Meghan Martin, Biomass Thermal Energy Council Policy Fellow | December 02, 2015

Renewable energy has not been a popular topic on Capitol Hill for some time, and while states have been active in expanding their renewable energy portfolio every year, it remains a vital task for associations like the Biomass Thermal Energy Council to make sure that biomass thermal energy is better understood by policy makers and represented fairly in federal laws, regulations and programs as a clean, sustainable, and reliable domestic energy resource. To this end, a large group of representatives from industry, non-profit organizations and educational institutions gathered on Nov. 18 in Washington, D.C.  as part of BTEC’s Biomass Thermal DC Summit. 

The objective of the Summit was for attendees to educate members of Congress and their staff about the economic and environmental benefits of biomass thermal energy and why it should be a bigger part of our national energy strategy. Members of Congress were encouraged to support the broader adoption of sustainable biomass through a variety of policies and programs, including enactment of the federal Biomass Thermal Utilization Act of 2015 (BTU Act—H.R. 1145, S. 727) and declaration of sustainable biomass as part of the natural carbon cycle and thus a carbon-neutral energy source.

The summit started with a morning briefing from BTEC and co-sponsors Biomass Energy Resource Center, Pellet Fuels Institute, and Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association. BTEC coordinated more than 40 meetings with legislators and federal agencies as a part of the Summit, which resulted in obtaining additional co-sponsors of the BTU Act of 2015 as well as new members of the House Biomass Caucus co-chaired by Representatives Bruce Westerman. R-Ark., and Annie Kuster, D-N.H.

The main focus of these meetings was to emphasize that excluding thermal energy from the list of renewable energy sources will make it much harder for the nation and the world to meet the challenge of climate change. Thermal energy is responsible for over a third of the nation’s energy needs: leaving it out of any comprehensive energy plan will tamper with that plan’s effectiveness. 

Summit attendees spent the day meeting with their senators, representatives, and key staffers as well as officials from federal government agencies such as the USDA and the U.S. Forest Service. At the reception, attendees shared their accomplishments from the day and many said that they felt their message had been heard and was well-received.

Joel Stronberg, executive director of the BTEC, stated after the event that “the DC Thermal Summit was an important step in spreading the word about biomass thermal energy. We will continue to establish a steady presence on Capitol Hill, including hosting annual events similar to this one, to help increase recognition of thermal energy from sustainable biomass by itself and in combination with other clean energy sources like solar and geothermal.”