Recovering energy from leftovers and byproducts of forest stewardship and the manufacture of durable wood goods has measurable benefit to local economies, forest resources, materials management, the power grid and, yes, climate change. This diversity naturally lends itself to a broad interest in the policy landscape: Utilities, energy regulation, planning and markets; forest management, manufacturing, and materials management.

To thrive, biomass power producers need policies that:

  • Recognize the diverse benefits that biomass power brings to Michigan’s citizens and their environment.
  • Acknowledge and value biomass power generation for the measurable benefit it brings to the management of Michigan’s resources and environment, and to the reliability and resiliency of Michigan’s bulk power system.
  • Promote and incentivize recovery of energy from organic byproducts like woody biomass as a source of no- or low-carbon energy that offsets fossil fuels and more carbon-intensive emissions.
  • Support sustainable forest management, and the communities and industries that rely on them for economic prosperity and quality of life.
  • Recognize the role biomass power plays in fighting climate change and displacing the additive carbon in the atmosphere produced by fossil fuels.

Biomass & the New Energy Paradigm

The changing energy landscape in Michigan has largely bypassed biomass power generation, and that’s not a good thing. Michigan’s biomass power producers have been making renewable, carbon-neutral, baseload power for nearly 30 years, largely at a time when renewable energy wasn’t “a thing,” and well before wind and solar technologies were considered viable.

That doesn’t mean biomass power resources are old, outdated, or antiquated.

  • FACT: Intermittent generation like wind and solar cannot fully, 100% “decarbonize” the energy sector, our economy, our lifestyles, or our environment. Experts know wind and solar will only go so far in satisfying our energy needs – about 80% of it – and that it will take baseload generation like biomass power to get the rest of the way.
  • FACT: Solar cannot generate power when the sun doesn’t shine, turbines cannot generate when the wind doesn’t blow, and battery and other storage devices have not been fully developed to displace baseload generation, consuming a significant portion of the energy they store. Even pumped storage, which effectively “stores” energy by pumping water into an elevated reservoir, then releasing it through turbine generators to make power, can only produce about half the power it took to pump the water in the first place. Whereas every kilowatt of renewable electricity produced in a biomass power plant gets delivered the customer.
  • FACT: Mitigating climate change will require decarbonizing the nation’s transportation sector, mainly cars and trucks, which by itself represents additional generation capacity in Michigan of about 2000 MW. That load growth will have to be offset by reduced energy consumption in homes and by industry, and significant investment in wind, solar and storage – plus investment in the transmission and distribution system to make it all work. Biomass power exists now, requires no new investment, and produces renewable electricity 24 hours a day.
  • FACT: Wind and solar alone can’t carry the weight in curbing climate change. Power generated from the organic byproducts of human activity – like forest residuals and mill byproducts – have a crucial supporting role to play and is a diverse energy resource that cannot be duplicated by other technologies or fossil fuels.

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