North Carolina: A Bioenergy Case Study

State and Federal policies on renewable energy will, to a great extent, drive demand for wood-to-energy biomass feedstocks. Across the United States, 29 states and the District of Columbia have adopted renewable portfolio standards (RPS) mandating that a certain percent of the state’s energy come from renewable sources by a certain date. In the South, […]

State and Federal policies on renewable energy will, to a great extent, drive demand for wood-to-energy biomass feedstocks. Across the United States, 29 states and the District of Columbia have adopted renewable portfolio standards (RPS) mandating that a certain percent of the state’s energy come from renewable sources by a certain date.

In the South, only North Carolina and Texas have adopted RPS. One of the questions that comes with RPS is how the increased demand created by these policies will affect local timber markets and underlying forest resources.

In 2010, Southern Research Station (SRS) research economist Karen Abt and North Carolina State University cooperators used the North Carolina RPS as a case study to simulate the impacts of increased demand for woody biomass as a result of renewable energy policies.

Many studies on wood supply for bioenergy have assumed that timber and mill residues would make up most of the feedstocks; in the South, residues are already widely used as energy sources by the industries that produce them, significantly reducing the amount actually available for other facilities. The focus on residues has minimized concerns about the impacts of wood-based energy on other forest industries using pulpwood (generally defined as trees not large enough or of good enough quality for sawtimber).

North Carolina’s RPS requires that a certain amount of a utility’s energy sales come from renewable resources. As renewable standards go, North Carolina’s is both complicated and relatively modest; after 2020, 12.5% of a utility’s 2020 retail sales must come from a combination of renewable resources and energy-saving measures. Even at this level, the policy could affect the forest industries that play a major part in the state’s economy.

From The USFS Southern Research Station: http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/compass/2012/06/14/north-carolina-a-bioenergy-case-study/

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