A Too Early Look at IBCE 2017

With just six months remaining until the International Biomass Conference & Expo convenes again in Minneapolis, Executive Editor Tim Portz ponders what will be the year's biggest talkers.
By Tim Portz | October 03, 2016

This week or next we’ll arrive at that place in the calendar where we are closer to next year’s International Biomass Conference & Expo than we are to last year’s event. It is significant for me because it launches the early thinking for the conference, the tours we should look to lock down and the topics we’ll likely hear about at the conference.

A few of the particulars:

1. We’re bringing the conference back to the event’s unofficial host city, Minneapolis on April 10-12. We’re here about every other year and for good reason. Minneapolis is at most a 3 hour flight for nearly everyone in the country and our attendees tell us they love the non-conference amenities available nearby.

2. We’ll begin accepting abstracts and presentation ideas this month, with the bulk of our marketing reminders happening in November and closing the call for abstracts on December 2. Our goal is to have a complete agenda ready for everyone to consider before the New Year. We’ve moved all of our agenda development efforts up by two weeks to both complete the agenda sooner AND to avoid writing a conference agenda over the holiday break.

Our team is just now in the middle of our fall conference cycle attending the conferences of our association colleagues, but when thinking about our event next spring I’ve already identified a handful of things I’m curious to hear about. In no particular order:

a. Pellet demand from Japan. The emergence of a consistent pellet buying country in Asia is important for the wood pellet sector for a number of reasons. Our producer colleagues in western Canada are certainly ready and have largely moved on from any hope of South Korea being that country. I talked at length with Gordon Murray about Japan and have already put the bug in his ear about joining us in Minneapolis on the general session stage. The emergence of Japan as a real pellet buyer would not only inject some nice demand in the marketplace it could serve as a signal that Asia is ready to recognize the decarbonisation pathway that wood pellets provide.

b. Rebound year for domestic pellet sales? Last year stung. Producers left last year’s heating season with pellet inventories of their own and reports of retailers having carry over volumes as well. An early, prolonged and cold winter would be a wonderful tonic for everyone that produces pellets for domestic consumption. The results will be in and I’m hoping for widespread smiles and back patting amongst our producer conference-goers.

c. Biomass as a means to a Clean Power Plan end. I’m not here to speculate on whether or not the Clean Power Plan survives or is ever fully implemented. Regardless of how all of that shakes out doesn’t change that the debate surrounding the policy generates a tremendous amount of discussion about biomass and its…renewability? Renewableness? We love biomass for its baseload qualities, but does the general population or will they/are they being swayed by industry detractors. I’m counting on Bob Cleaves to be with us again and help us break it all down.

d. Administration change. The International Biomass Conference & Expo has been held almost exclusively during Obama years. This year’s event will be held under an entirely new administration. We’ll obviously know who the new president is, and I think we’ll have at least glimpses of some energy policy direction. What does energy policy look like in the Clinton administration? How about under a Trump administration?

We’re a little early to ask for abstract submissions, but I would ask folks to a mental note that we’ll be aggressively shaking the industry knowledge tree in November. Join us. Speak. You’ll be glad you did.