New DOER Biomass Regulations Would Benefit Wind Development

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The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has unveiled proposed regulations that would require large, wood-burning electricity generators to meet strict greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for clean energy financing while paving the way for smaller, more efficient biomass plants to earn renewable energy credits (RECs).

The regulations would allow Massachusetts to make up the difference in its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) through the development of cleaner renewable energy technologies, especially wind power and solar power, the DOER says.

The state's RPS provides financial support in the form of RECs for new sources of renewable energy. Under current law, the RPS requires Massachusetts' utilities and other electricity suppliers to purchase 6% of their electricity from DOER-qualified renewable energy sources this year, with that requirement increasing 1% per year without limit.

Filed with the state legislature for review, the proposed regulations are designed to ensure that only the most energy-efficient wood-burning electricity generating plants benefit from state-sanctioned clean energy financing.

‘Unlike wind and solar power, biomass is a form of renewable energy that emits carbon,’ says DOER Commissioner Mark Sylvia. ‘These new regulations are designed to better align the state's financial incentives for clean energy with sources of power that will help us meet our goals.’

While the proposed regulations do not impact permitting or ban the development of biomass energy in Massachusetts, they do set a high bar for qualifying to earn RECs under the state's RPS, the DOER says. Among the proposed changes is a mandate that, in order to qualify under the RPS, biomass plants must provide life-cycle GHG emissions analysis and be able to demonstrate emissions reductions of at least 50% over 20 years.

Another key provision requires biomass facilities to operate at an overall efficiency of 40% in order to qualify to receive one-half a REC per megawatt hour of generation, increasing to a full credit once a plant achieves an efficiency rate of 60%.

The proposed regulations will be reviewed by the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy for 30 days. The committee's comments will then come back to the DOER, and the agency will further review the regulations for another 30 days before filing the final rules with the secretary of state for promulgation early this summer, at which time they will take effect.

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