Islanders are asking the right questions about biomass heating 23Nov2019

Curved arrows represent biologically mediated flows of GHGs: the straight arrow, industrial emissions of GHGs; and the symbols at bottom right, long term sequestration of carbon in the oceans. Carbon dioxide is the most important GHG in relation to forestry.

PEI’s use of wood for heating public buildings has been cited as a model we should follow here. From the Lahey Report(Aug 21, 2019):

Conclusion 7: Some say that harvesting trees for energy production, sometimes called biomass harvesting particularly when done for production of electricity, is a mistake that should be stopped because of the forestry practices it is associated with, and because it is a low‐value use of trees (exacerbated by the chipping of high‐value trees for biomass), and because burning trees is an inefficient source of energy for electricity that does not qualify as “green.”

Conclusion 125: Following the example of successful projects in Prince Edward Island, DNR and other relevant agencies of the provincial government, along with municipal governments and regional development agencies, should work together with project developers to bring small‐scale wood‐energy projects, particularly for heating, online in the western region for public buildings such as hospitals, schools, government office buildings, and correctional facilities.

Recommendation 35: DNR and other relevant agencies of the provincial government, along with municipal governments and regional development agencies, should work together with project developers to support and enable small‐scale wood‐energy projects that will allow low‐ quality wood to be used in heating hospitals, schools, government office buildings, correctional facilities, and other public buildings.

& L&F didn’t waste anytime following up. Thus a “Small Scale Wood Energy Initiative” is one of eight priority areas L&F is pursuing in response to the Lahey report. From L&F’s Ecological Forestry page:

Small Scale Wood Energy Initiative

Launching a new initiative that will see more public buildings replace their fossil fuel heating system to locally sourced wood chip heating systems.

Current Status: A request for supplier qualifications was issued in fall 2019.

Timeline: First site to be in place by 2020/21 heating season.

Small Scale Wood Energy Initiative – Overview (PDF 505 KB)

A major failing of the Lahey Report was the complete lack of any mention of the rationale and need for proper Life Cycle Assessments of existing and proposed forest biomass initiatives  (view NSFN posts Sep 7, 2019 and Sep 8, 2018). Unfortunately that carried over into L&F’s response – there is no mention of LCAs for theSmall Scale Wood Energy Initiative,  let alone for the notoriously inefficient Port Hawkesbury biomass operation.

So it was refreshing to read this CBC News item – As P.E.I. looks to heat more buildings with wood, MLAs question environmental benefits by Kerry Campbell · CBC News Nov 22, 2019. Some extracts:

The capital budget tabled by the King government last week commits $6.6 million to add 13 more public buildings to the list of 33 schools, hospitals and other buildings converted from heating oil to biomass heat.

But as the Opposition pointed out in question period Friday, the environmental benefits of switching to wood heat depend on how the wood is harvested, whether plantings keep up with harvested trees, and how long trees are allowed to grow before they’re cut.

…”We shouldn’t move forward with a plan to burn more trees if we don’t have the proper sustainable management plan in place,” he said. “The data should come first.”

and at least the PEI Government appears to get some of it:

Government said contractors who provide biomass are required to follow sustainable harvesting standards. The province has voluntary guidelines for other woodlot owners.

Trivers said the province has created a new position for a forest auditor to “make sure that we’re harvesting the right wood” for biomass heating “and we’re harvesting in the right methods.”

That’s quite a contrast with NS where our L&F/Government  remains in a state of denial on this issues, and where as yet even the opposition has not raised the issue.

Some related links, pages on NSFN

Nova Scotia Forest Notes/Current Issues/BIOMASS/BIOFUELS & GHGs

“It’s time for Nova Scotia political leaders to stop what seems to be a runaway, and rationally incoherent, biomass energy policy” 9July2019
Post, July 9 , 2019

XR Nova Scotia gets its message about forest biomass to Emera/NSP execs 15Apr2019
Post, April 15, 2019

Nova Scotia L&F and Energy, take note: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission petitioned to protect investors against misleading claims about biofuels and the like
Post April 11, 2019

Time for Nova Scotia Government to come clean on forest bioenergy feedstocks 19Mar2019
Post March 19, 2019

Nova Scotia forests, forestry and GHGs 2: Who accounts for the EU’s emissions from bioenergy generated from imported chips?
Post July 27, 2018

Natural Resources Canada GHG Calculator confirms Nova Scotia forest bioenergy schemes are worse than coal
Post January 3, 2017

And view investigative reporter Linda Pannozzo on the topic:
Linda Pannozzo in the Halifax Examiner Apr 13, 2019

Discussion on WWNS
GS: Unfortunately, that is not the case. The province has no idea where the wood is coming from. If you want silvicultural assistance, you must meet some bare minimum standards (your cuts must be no larger than 2ha, but you can cut 80% of a stand by leaving 15m buffers between your 2ha cuts). But I spoke with the technician who is doing the auditing and he hasn’t even developed the methodologies yet. So they clearly have been saying “sustainable” without being able to back it up.

AJG to GS: GS, this is untrue. What are you basing you comments on?

GS to AJG: I spoke with the forest tech hired by the province to access the cuts. And he told me that he is just developing the methodologies to do these audits. So none have been done. And the only reason they created the position at all was that the former forestry minister told me in a meeting almost a year ago that the wood was all coming from sustainable harvests. When I convinced him that that may or may not be true, but no one was checking, he was surprised and created the position.

GF: Getting silvicultural assistance on a PEI wood lot that supplies wood for biomass must be sustainable or you cant get the assistance . A reward to the private wood lot owner is having assistance at least 30% higher then NS rates , and are paid for by the tax payers , not mills processing wood products, unlike NS .

GW: One thing to note it’s the opposite here. Wood will come from private not crown

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