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New report shows industrial wood pellets deliver significant carbon benefits

The use of woody biomass for power generation produces significant carbon savings that provide long-term benefits to the environment, according to a new peer-reviewed report released today by the U.S. Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA), European Industrial pellet producers and Wood Pellet Asociation of Canada all members of the Bridging with Biomass coalition.

“Forest Sustainability and Carbon Balance of EU Importation of North American Forest Biomass for Bioenergy Production” shows that using industrial wood pellets to produce electricity makes an immediate or very rapid contribution to climate change mitigation.

The study reveals that when assumptions and real data from the field are used for forest carbon dynamics, the production of energy from sustainable solid biomass results in an immediate or very rapid contribution of to climate change mitigation. Because of its ability to proovide reliable, sustainable and base load supply, solid biomass allows Europe´s energy utilities to reduce carbon emissions from coal fired plants and is expected to contribute significantly to meeting the EU’s 2020 renewable energy target.

Among the findings:

  • Energy production from industrial wood pellets results in substantial carbon savings over time, far exceeding any temporary carbon debt or foregone sequestration, according to models based on realistic assumptions; and
  • There are fundamental flaws in prominent studies that have found forest-based bioenergy to be associated with long-term carbon deficits and long carbon repayment periods. Specifically, those studies are generally based on modeling assumptions that do not correspond with current and expected production and are therefore not representative of actual industry practices.

“Industrial wood pellets from the North America are an essential component of Europe’s power mix and provide an abundant, sustainable and carbon beneficial energy source that keeps the lights on in millions of homes and businesses,” said Seth Ginther, USIPA’s executive director. “By displacing fossil fuels, industrial wood pellets are decarbonizing Europe.”

“We hope that EU policymakers will take these findings into consideration when they are evaluating the sustainability of this essential source of renewable energy,” Ginther added.

The report focuses on the southeast region of the United States and British Columbia in Canada, two of the primary sources of wood pellets that are used in the European Union.

U.S. forests are protected by federal, state and local laws and regulations, as well as industry best practices that ensure the continued vitality of more than 751 million acres of forest in the United States. USIPA members rely on low-grade wood fiber such as tree tops and limbs, sawmill residues and low quality wood that does not meet the standards for lumber processing.

The Bridging with Biomass coalition brings together the European Industrial Pellet Suppliers (EIPS), the U.S Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA) and the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC).

Bridging with biomass calls on the European Commission to take the study’s conclusions into account in it’s policy making, so as to facilitate the long-term investment and legal certainty needed for sustainable biomass to continue to play its essential role in decarbonizing Europe’s energy supply.

The full report can be downloaded here.