Wood Energy News

Wood Energy

A recent article in the Journal of Forestry highlights some of the important questions not being asked about wood energy. In her article, “Other questions we need to be asking about wood bioenergy,” Dr. Law focuses on the scale and ownership of wood energy projects in the U.S.[1] Dr. Law points to the benefits of locally and publicly owned wood energy projects that keep investing in the local community. The Guild’s Research Director, Zander Evans, added to the discussion by emphasizing that bioenergy must be ecologically, socially, and economically responsible (just as any forestry operation should be).[2] Zander also drew a link to Forest Stewardship Council certification as a way to ensure sustainability of bioenergy harvests.

Guild board member Al Sample also contributed to the conversation by discussing the opportunity to take a corporate social responsibility perspective to ensure responsible biomass production.[3] The importance of corporate social responsibility is on the rise because the industrial production of wood pellets is increasing. Wood pellets production in the U.S. increased from five to seven million metric tons from 2012 to 2014. Much of this growth is driven by European demand. A recent scientific article evaluating how European states will meet their 2020 renewable energy target highlights the importance of wood energy to meet these targets. Energy from biomass is expected to make up 45% of the 28 member states’ renewable energy portfolio in 2020.[4]  This dependence on wood energy is likely to continue despite reports such as the one released this year by the influential Royal Institute of International Affairs in London that concludes using woody biomass for energy has a negative impact on the climate.[5]

Companies, states, and individual foresters continue to refer to the Guild’s biomass harvesting guidelines (see www.forestguild.org/biomass). In the Southeast, where much of the current wood pellet production occurs, the Guild is working with a wide range of partners to ensure high conservation-value forests are not negatively affected by expanding wood energy markets. Some emerging initiatives are focusing on bottomland hardwoods and other wetland forests that are unique biodiversity hotspots – and also under pressure from new pellet markets. Twenty-five organizations are working together to elevate wetland forests as a national conservation priority and identify opportunities for restoration. Because so much of the Southeast is private land, the Guild has championed the importance of sustainable management as part of the equation for ensuring wetland forests remain healthy. Even as the questions around wood bioenergy change, the Guild continues to play a leadership role.

 

[1] Law, J. 2017. The other questions we need to be asking about wood bioenergy. Journal of Forestry 115(2):128-133.

[2] Evans, A. M. 2017. Ecologically, Socially, and Economically Responsible Wood Bioenergy. Journal of Forestry 115(2):134-135.

[3] Sample, V. A. 2017. The "Other Questions" about Wood Bioenergy: Clarifying Goals and Governance. Journal of Forestry 115(2):136-137.

[4] Proskurina, S., R. Sikkema, J. Heinimö, and E. Vakkilainen. 2016. Five years left – How are the EU member states contributing to the 20% target for EU's renewable energy consumption; the role of woody biomass. Biomass and Bioenergy 95:64-77.

[5] Brack, D. 2017. Woody Biomass for Power and Heat Impacts on the Global Climate. Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), London, England.