Draft regulation of Mass. woody biomass RPS eligibility filed

By Lisa Gibson | May 03, 2011

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) filed with the Clerk of the House May 3 a much-anticipated draft regulation that outlines woody biomass eligibility for the state’s 20 percent by 2025 renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Uncertainty has surrounded the biomass industry in the commonwealth since the DOER released a draft of RPS qualification regulations in September 2011. One of the main issues with the draft was the minimum efficiency standard of 40 percent for biomass power facilities to qualify, and unfortunately, it looks like this draft didn’t revise that rule.

The May draft says a low-emission, advanced biomass power conversion technology using an eligible biomass fuel can qualify as an RPS Class I Renewable Generation Unit if it can demonstrate a minimum of 40 percent efficiency on a quarterly basis, among several other criteria. The definition of eligible biomass fuel includes eligible biomass woody fuels, which are certain forest-derived residues, forest salvage, nonforest derived residues such as those from primary and secondary forest product industries, yard waste and dedicated energy crops.

The draft includes a number of provisions for those woody biomass fuels. For instance, a biomass fuel certificate must accompany every delivery of eligible woody biomass fuel or manufactured fuel to a generation unit. For forest-delivered eligible woody biomass fuel, the biomass fuel certificate must be issued with the eligible forest residue tonnage report, which details the amount of biomass that can be harvested, and includes one of a number of aspects including a signature of a professional forester who is certified by the Society of American Foresters, licensed by the host state of the harvest site, or certified by the DOER based on documentation that a professional forester has proficiency and experience in forestry, the draft specifies.

Whereas the September draft mandated that biomass harvests could not exceed 15 percent of the weight of all forest products, the new draft reads, “The total weight of the forest products shall be calculated utilizing weight standards by species provided by the Department in a Guideline. The allowable percent removal limit shall be determined as prescribed by the Department in a Guideline to protect soil nutrient retention in varying soil conditions.”

Overall, the draft includes numerous changes from the original, but still seems to be incredibley limiting for the Massachusett's biopower industry.

“We expect the regulation to be referred to the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, who will have 30 days to review the regulation and provide their comments back to DOER,” said Dwayne Breger, director of renewable and alternative energy development for the DOER. “After considering these comments, DOER anticipates filing the final regulation after another 30 days for promulgation.”

To see the May 3 draft, click here.