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The Biomass Sustainability and Carbon Policy Study (Exec Summary)
The Biomass Sustainability and Carbon Policy Study
Sustainable Wood Bioenergy in Massachusetts
Wood Biomass Harvesting Guidelines and Carbon Policy

Like 28 other states across the country, Massachusetts has enacted a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to steadily increase the percentage of the state's electric power that is derived from renewable sources, in large part as a means to gradually decrease greenhouse gas emissions from the use of fossil fuels. In addition to wind and solar power projects, state government in Massachusetts has invested more than $1 million to facilitate the development of four proposed wood biomass power plants as part of the effort to reach its goal of generating 15 percent of the state's electricity from renewable sources by 2020. In late 2009, after growing concern over proposals to construct three (30-50 MW) biomass power plants in the Western half of the state, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) suspended all applications for biomass-based electricity generation from being a compliance option under state's renewable portfolio standard (RPS).

Blue sky with green leaves

Last year, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, issued an order for a comprehensive study of greenhouse gas emissions from wood biomass power plants, to determine if they can be operated consistent with the sustainable management of the state's forests and the goal for greenhouse gas emissions reductions. With the release of this study, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) may issue new regulations for biomass power facilities. Revisions in forest management policies are also plausible.

Led by the Massachusetts-based Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, the team includes the Pinchot Institute, the Biomass Energy Resource Center, Forest Guild, and several independent forest ecologists and resource economists. A four-person advisory panel was established, consisting of nationally-recognized experts who have assisted the core research team in the design of the project and the interpretation and presentation of findings.

The Biomass Sustainability and Carbon Policy Study offers a comprehensive and cutting-edge analysis of the environmental, social, and economic implications of biomass energy. Although the study was initiated to help facilitate informed policy decisions within Massachusetts, it offers a framework of analysis that has relevance to all regions of the country.

Trees

Key Questions and Findings of the Massachusetts Study:

  1. How much wood is available from forests to support biomass energy development in Massachusetts?
  2. What are the potential ecological impacts of increased biomass harvests in Massachusetts, and what if any policies are needed to ensure that these harvests are ecologically sustainable?
  3. What are the atmospheric greenhouse gas implications of shifting energy production from fossil fuel sources to forest biomass?
  4. Implications of the Massachusetts Study

For several years, the Pinchot Institute for Conservation has been highly involved in the exploration of the sustainability concerns of biomass energy to support science-based decision-making in the development of biomass energy policy. For additional information on the Institute's bioenergy programs visit: www.pinchot.org/bioenergy

Conservation is the foresighted utilization, preservation and/or renewal of forests, waters, lands and minerals, for the greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time.
-Gifford Pinchot
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