Greenfield Recorder – It’s my turn: We should end subsidies for wood energy

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The Massachusetts Legislature is considering a bill that would once again increase subsidies for wood burning, steering the state in the wrong direction in the name of “clean” energy.

Biomass energy has long been a controversial topic in Massachusetts, at least since 1997, when the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) became law. RPS established subsidies for ratepayer-funded wood-fired power plants (along with subsidies for solar, wind, and other renewable generation technologies).

Public pressure led by the people of Western Massachusetts resulted in Patrick’s administration’s findings that burning forest wood for energy produces more carbon dioxide (per unit of energy produced) than fossil fuels. After years of additional advocacy, Congress finally removed woody biomass from his RPS completely in 2022. But all that remains of the program are incentives for wood heating and one arcane provision promoting biomass electricity.

Harvesting forest wood and burning it for fuel not only has a negative impact on the ecosystem and climate, but also has a very negative impact on human health. According to the latest EPA emissions data, only 12% of Massachusetts homes use some form of wood for heating, while residential and commercial wood burning generates particulate matter from Massachusetts’ heating sector. (PM2.5) Accounts for 92% and 31% of total emissions. Of the state’s total PM2.5 emissions.

PM2.5 emissions are the leading cause of air pollution-related illness and death in the United States. Why would lawmakers want to increase the number of homes, businesses, and facilities that are heated with wood, thereby exposing sensitive populations and already overburdened communities to increased air pollution?

Governor Maura Healey has pledged to end subsidies for forest bioenergy for electricity and commercial-scale heating as part of climate action, saying, “Burning wood for bioenergy depletes forests and depletes forests. “It increases greenhouse gas emissions and is a threat to human health.” It is therefore unfortunate that a bill with a brand new provision doubling the incentives for biomass heating was recently introduced out of committee with little fanfare or support. Its purpose is said to be to “improve air quality” – an almost Orwellian phrase given the disproportionate role of wood. Heating pollutes our air.

More than 100 state and local environmental, public health, and environmental justice organizations support removing woody biomass from all clean energy programs in Massachusetts. We’re asking the Legislature to finish the job on bioenergy. Specifically, the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (APS), which provides incentives for wood heating, and the Municipal Light Plant (MLP) greenhouses, which are municipal public facilities operated in 41 towns across the country, will It needs to be removed from the effect gas emission standards. Massachusetts.

Massachusetts ratepayers have already spent millions of dollars promoting wood-burning technology through APS. A newly proposed bill to further encourage wood heating units would use dedicated clean energy funds paid for by Massachusetts ratepayers to ultimately increase air pollution and its impacts. Become. This initiative should be rejected and biomass removed from APS completely.

But as harmful as promoting polluting biomass heating in APS is, the effects of the climate change bill passed in 2021 are likely even worse, with newly created greenhouse gas emissions reductions Under the standards, biomass is defined as a “non-carbon emitting” resource. M.L.P. Not only does this contradict objective reality, it allows out-of-state biomass power plants, which pollute more than coal, to be eligible for programs aimed at reducing Massachusetts carbon emissions.

It also leaves a potential source of revenue for the planned Palmer Renewable Energy Biomass Power Plant in Springfield, which is currently fighting in court to have its permit reinstated. Even though the state removed biomass power from the RPS, which governs retail electricity suppliers, it makes no sense to promote it under the standards of municipally owned electric utilities.

Congress must close the MLP loophole by removing biomass from the definition of “non-carbon emitting” resources to prevent biomass contracts from being initiated in the future. Congress needs to act this session because New England needs regulatory certainty and negotiating long-term power purchase agreements takes time.

Permanently abolish clean energy programs and eliminate all ratepayer-funded incentives to burn wood. To be clear, no one is saying that homeowners, businesses, or industrial sectors can’t burn wood. But the public does not have to pay for it with their own health or clean energy money.

Cummington resident Katy Eiseman is a program manager at the Partnership for Policy Integrity.

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