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Bill will boost biomass in Wisconsin

By Anna Austin
Wisconsin biomass advocates are requesting active support from the public to secure the passage of Gov. Jim Doyle's Clean Energy Jobs Act (SB450 and AB649), which was introduced in early January.

The bill, which largely endorses biomass energy, will increase the use of renewable energy, energy efficiency and cleaner fuels in Wisconsin. "The legislation provides multiple benefits for biomass energy systems and for the first time, introduces measures to encourage the most efficient use of biomass in heating and cogeneration," said Peter Taglia, staff scientist for the environmental advocacy organization Clean Wisconsin. The provision is part of an enhanced renewable portfolio standard (RPS), he added, which would credit biomass thermal applications from cogeneration and biogas injected into the natural gas pipeline, providing additional opportunities for farms to install anaerobic digesters at locations where the cost to install electric generators or transmission isn't feasible. The section also proposes allowing utilities to count the heat produced from biomass cogeneration toward the RPS, and improves the calculations used to determine the energy produced from biomass cofiring and biomass cogeneration facilities, according to Taglia.

Wisconsin's current RPS targets the increase of renewable energy in the state to 10 percent by 2010 and the proposed bill would expand the RPS to 25 percent by 2020. In addition, all state agencies would use biomass to provide 25 percent of their energy use by 2025.

Among provisions that would benefit the production of local biomass resources is a Biomass Crop Reserve Program, which would award contracts to farmers to plant native perennial plants to sell for bioenergy production. Taglia said this program would help solve the "chicken-and-egg problem" of jump-starting the homegrown fuels market, and make Wisconsin more competitive to receive funding through the USDA's Biomass Crop Assistance Program.

Taglia said proponents of the bill hope to get it passed and signed into law before this legislative session ends in mid-May. Clean Wisconsin is requesting letters of support for the bills from the public, which may be submitted at http://cleanwisconsin.e-actionmax.com/takeaction.asp?aaid=297.

A public hearing to discuss details of the bill was held at the State Capitol building in February. For an overview of SB450 and AB649, go to www.legis.state.wi.us/lc/publications/climate/index.htm.
 

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