Friday, July 1, 2011

NH in center of storm in New England renewable energy battle

September 24, 2010 by ShawnMillerick  
Filed under Energy & Environment

New Hampshire is about to become involved in a fight for the future of renewable energy. Massachusetts is introducing new regulations that would curtail the biomass industry, one of New Hampshire’s primary sources of energy and a thriving industry in New England. In January, a proposed EPA regulation called the “Tailoring Rule,” designed to target greenhouse gas emitters will include the biomass industry in it’s purview, leveraging a backdoor energy tax that could cost New Hampshire and ultimately the American economy.

Massachusetts biomass producers are already preparing to feel the burn.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette wrote in its online edition that the proposed biomass regulation released on Friday could reportedly make it more difficult for wood-fired power plants to earn credits for producing renewable energy…The report quoted Bob Cleaves, president of the Biomass Power Association, as saying that the new energy efficiency standards in the proposed regulation are actually unachievable.

Mr. Cleaves warned that the regulations will prevent investors from acquiring the necessary state support to advance other projects.

Developers of biomass plants contend that the technology is carbon neutral – and that biomass is one of the few thriving sources of renewable energy available today, but environmental activists, pressuring Massachusetts and the EPA, would rather see preferential treatment for solar and wind initiatives. These regs, though, could have a national – and local – impact. The National Alliance of Forest Owners contends that biomass fuels employment in mills, energy facilities and working forests across the country – about 2.4 million US jobs – and even organized labor can see a dark future.

BPA says a typical biomass plant in Massachusetts could lose a quarter to a third of its cash flow.

Organized labor called the regulations a jobs-killer.

In a press conference on Monday, Wayne Lehman of the Laborers Local Union 596, warned that jobs are already scarce. “We have no jobs right now. I don’t think now is the time to put stringent regulations on these plants that are going to create good jobs for us.”

And creating jobs it is: Vermont will add a new plant this year and an estimated 140 jobs and the Air Force will add two new plants in Floria and Georgia. New Hampshire’s LaidLaw Berlin Biopower just received approval for a new plant to be built in the next 18-24 months, on the grounds of a closed papermill.

That’s growth – growth that could be in danger should New Hampshire decide to follow suit on Massachusetts and the EPA.

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