Biomass Sustainability Issue Is Key in North Carolina Renewable Energy Dispute

A North Carolina Court has ruled that using whole trees to produce electric power may be counted as an eligible source of renewable energy under the state’s renewable energy standard. Duke Energy has been testing co-firing woody biomass, derived from the harvest of whole trees, with coal in two of its North Carolina power plants. Opponents of the plan argued in court that the state law did not explicitly permit the use of whole trees in its renewable energy standard.

The Court of Appeals ruling upheld a ruling last year by the North Carolina Utilities Commission. As John Bonitz at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy observed, “This may have been a precise and solid legal decision, but it’s still bad policy.” The biggest concern is the lack of provisions in the law to assure the sustainable production of biomass for energy. The integrity of a renewable energy standard rests upon being able to assure the public that it is truly advancing the public’s climate and renewable energy priorities.