Biomass Thermal: A Progress Report

By Kyle Gibeault | November 23, 2010

As the Biomass Thermal Energy Council approaches its two-year anniversary in January, it is a good time to take stock and evaluate the progress we’ve made in growing the use of biomass for heating and combined heat and power (CHP) in the United States.

January 2009 was a decidedly tumultuous time for business in America. The economy was in a tailspin and the debate on energy policy was whipsawing in Washington. Several leading companies felt the biomass thermal industry needed a stronger, more unified voice to take on these challenges. And so BTEC was born.

BTEC has a simple message: When using biomass for energy, heating and CHP are the most efficient uses of the resource. We have shared this story with many leaders, always emphasizing the ways in which biomass thermal energy fulfills our energy policy objectives. Biomass thermal is a renewable source of energy that offsets imported fossil fuels, creates jobs and promotes the sustainable use of our natural resources. What’s not to like?

Despite the attractiveness of our story, mountains do not move overnight—especially in the District of Columbia Nevertheless, we have worked hard to build a community and get our message to important officials in Congress, federal agencies, environmental organizations, and trade associations. We’ve made significant progress.

In the past two years, we have:

• Played a key role in the introduction of five bills (H.R. 2080, H.R. 5918, S. 1643, S. 3188 and S. 3626) to establish or expand federal incentives for biomass heating and CHP.

• Met with and submitted numerous comments to U.S. EPA, USDA, U.S. DOE, and other federal agencies on the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology, the Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule and other issues important to the industry.

• Organized and participated in numerous briefings for Congress on biomass thermal energy.

• Co-hosted the first and second annual Heating the Northeast with Renewable Biomass conferences, which doubled in size and was completely sold out in 2010.

• Received a $60,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service for education and outreach projects related to biomass thermal energy.

• Established thermal energy as a widely recognized and important energy end-use for biomass resources.

These are significant highlights, but there is much yet to do. Next year we are planning to expand our grassroots efforts and more deeply engage biomass thermal’s most vocal champions—our members. Our industry may be a relatively small one, but we have proven that with good ideas and passionate supporters you can make things happen. We look forward to working with the new Congress and industry leaders to make 2011 the year biomass thermal energy gets the recognition it deserves in federal energy policy. I hope you’ll join us in making this goal a reality.

Author: Kyle Gibeault
Deputy Director, Biomass Thermal Energy Council
(202) 596-3974