AF&PA advocacy efforts have resulted in an important victory in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with the approval of legislation making it possible for the renewable energy produced at forest products facilities to earn renewable energy credits (RECs) that can be sold on an exchange market to utilities that do not meet proposed new minimum requirements for renewable energy generation.

This success occurred last week when the Committee approved an amendment sponsored by Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) removing the distinction between new and existing renewable energy in a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES).

The committee has been working on legislation to create an RES requiring 15 percent of the electricity produced in the country to be from renewable sources—solar, wind, geothermal and biomass—by 2021. Given the impact that an RES will have on energy costs, as well as the importance of making sure the forest products industry’s own renewable power is treated favorably, AF&PA has worked closely with the committee to shape the legislation.

Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman’s (D-NM) initial proposal was for a 20 percent RES by 2021 but opposition from other members of the committee led to him reducing that level to 15 percent, in addition to making other changes necessary to win support.

AF&PA has also worked closely on the definition of qualifying biomass. The latest version of the bill removes all sustainable forest management criteria from the definition, a substantial change from previous versions and a development that led AF&PA to register our concerns. To help clarify that spent pulping liquor is included in the bill’s definition of biomass, AF&PA proposed report language to the committee which is being considered.

Another noteworthy amendment approved by the committee was sponsored by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to encourage the use of biomass for electricity generation from co-generation or combined heat and power (CHP) technology. Initial indications are that industry facilities may benefit from this amendment.

We will continue to advocate for AF&PA’s board-approved policies as the bill soon moves to the Senate floor, particularly to ensure that our renewable power qualifies for RECs, that the definition of biomass allows for our maximum benefit, and that there are sustainable forest management requirements for biomass under an RES.

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