California passes bill mandating use of waste wood biomass in energy production

In the US, California State Legislature has passes a bill that is expected to help the state’s ailing biomass facilities by setting a mandate for wood waste-based energy production.

The bill, which is expected to be signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown by 30 September, requires the state's largest utilities to get 125MW of biomass power from dead trees in high hazard forested zones.

The California Public Utilities Commission has also placed a 50MW requirement on the state’s three largest investor-owned utilities. 

Utilities would have to meet the requirement by 1 December, 2016.

Over the past two years, six Californian biomass plants have been shut down while the state’s wildfires, fuelled by a continuing drought, have left tonnes of dead tree biomass that needs disposal.

Mobile incinerators were seen as one solution to the problem, but much of the material is still being sent to landfills, and biomass industry representatives say incentives for wind and solar have hurt business.

While they applauded this new bill, they also said more incentives were needed for agricultural and organic waste.

"The key here is this is the beginning of a conversation. This win is wonderful, but it really needs to be the beginning not the end of the conversation of biomass infrastructure as part of organics management in California,"  Julee Malinowski-Ball, executive director of the California Biomass Energy Alliance, told Construction & Demolition Recycling.

New programmes and facilities for organics are still opening in California, though a more rapid expansion may be needed for the state to reach its goal of a 75% waste diversion rate by 2020.

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