Nova Scotia decides to lower the cap on electricity from biomass
Nova Scotia has decided to lower the cap on the annual amount of new forest biomass that can be used to generate electricity by 30% – to 350,000 dry tonnes per year.
The reduction is to protect the sustainability of Nova Scotia’s forests, while still keeping the province on track to meet its renewable energy goals.
“As we work to meet our target to generate 40 per cent of the province’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020, we are continually assessing our information,” said Charlie Parker, Minister of Natural Resources. “We have decided that the original 500,000 tonne cap, laid-out in the 2010 Renewable Electricity Plan and subsequent regulations, can be more cautious on the basis of current analysis.”
When the plan was released in April 2010, the province made a commitment to defer to the Natural Resources Strategy process in setting the biomass cap.
“The Phase Two steering panel report in the Natural Resources Strategy process states that government should exercise caution in the use of biomass for power generation,” said Mr. Parker.
“We are paying attention to that advice while continuing to rely on forest biomass as part of a diversified approach to renewable energy.”
Provincial forest biomass will not be co-fired in Nova Scotia Power generating plants to help meet the province’s 2015 regulated target of 25% renewable electricity.
Co-firing is burning two fuels at a power plant and is the least efficient way to use biomass to generate electricity.
Other biomass projects will continue to be covered by the cap, including community-based biomass projects under the province’s new Community Feed-in-Tariff program.
Biomass is wood fibre that includes small-stemmed or knotted trees and other low-value wood that is not used to make lumber and can interfere with the growth of healthy hardwood stands.
Typically harvested as a byproduct of regular forestry practices, biomass is a renewable fuel source suitable for generating electricity in large power facilities and small community biomass projects. Forest biomass in Nova Scotia is used as a fuel in a number of applications, including firewood in more than 100,000 homes, a co-generation facility in Brooklyn, Queens Co., the agricultural college in Truro, two South Shore hospitals and several other institutions.
The only recently approved biomass project in the province is for New Page Port Hawkesbury Corp, in partnership with Nova Scotia Power. The project is expected to begin in 2012 under strict forest harvesting guidelines announced in November 2009. New policies to reduce clearcutting to 50% will also apply to NewPage.
Within the next few weeks, the province of Nova Scotia will release an economic impact analysis of recent policy changes on the forestry industry, particularly a clear-cutting reduction target. The provincial Natural Resources Strategy also will be released this spring.