up in smokeNot long ago, state environmental officials considered biomass energy, produced by large wood-burning power plants, an integral part of the Massachusetts renewable energy portfolio.  However, times have changed with the Department of Energy Resources’ (DOER) recent issuance of proposed rules (pdf) regulating large wood-burning power plants. 

If promulgated, the proposed rules would likely spell the end of the large wood-burning plants proposed in Russell, Springfield and Greenfield.  The new rules would gut the proposed plants by increasing efficiency requirements necessary to qualify for the much-coveted renewable energy credits.  If unable to qualify for these credits, the large wood-burning plants will be rendered economically infeasible.

After the initial embrace of biomass power as a renewable energy source, broad opposition to biomass in Massachusetts prompted the state to commission a study to determine woody biomass’s sustainability and carbon neutrality as an energy generating feedstock.  The study challenged the previously held assumption that the growing of forests for fuel absorbed as much greenhouse gas as was produced by the subsequent burning of the wood.

The rules are now being reviewed by the DOER and the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, and are scheduled to take effect in early July.