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SC Biomass Council Participates in SC Energy Plan

Friday, January 20, 2017 8:49 AM | Elise Fox (Administrator)

In 2016, the SC Energy Office embarked on its ambitious plan to develop a new Energy Plan for the State of South Carolina.  The SCBC is thankful for the opportunity to participate in the effort and we made four recommendations to the Renewables Subcommittee, three of which were accepted and will be incorporated into the plan, pending approval by the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission.  The Energy Plan is currently in final preparation stages and will hopefully be submitted to the PURC for approval in February.  We will keep you posted on the outcome of our recommendations.  Further information on the Energy Plan can be found at: http://www.energy.sc.gov/node/2331?pc=2332.  Our recommendations accepted for consideration by the Renewables Subcommittee were as follows:

  • 1.      Develop a Plan for Acceptable Use of Beneficial Waste-to-Energy in South Carolina

Challenge:  Problematic wastes streams that cannot be recycled exist throughout the state which could be utilized for waste-to-energy, rather than landfilling. This requires defining preferred pathways for these waste streams which are acceptable from the environmental standpoint, then providing encouragement or incentive to develop.

Background: There are significant waste streams (often biomass-based) which could be funneled to a beneficial use by using a waste-to-energy process.  Sometimes, this can involve a commonly used waste product such as waste wood from land-clearing or timbering which has no market locally in a particular region due to the economic limitation of freight costs.  At other times, this could be a state-wide need for a beneficial waste use.

The South Carolina Department of Commerce has a committee named RMDAC (Recycling Market Development Advisory Council) which is tasked with finding markets for recycled materials, and could help with determining the waste stream availability. DHEC also has responsibility for waste accounting and supervision in the state, as well as for air and water quality when the waste is processed. The SC Energy Office monitors energy use and production in the state. Among these entities, the knowledge and responsibility could be harnessed to develop best practices for utilizing these wastes, and then incentivizing the preferred pathways.

Recommended Approach: Establish a task force, under the guidance of RMDAC and including other related stakeholders, to identify the economically significant waste streams that are unutilized in the state. Prioritize developing beneficial uses for the waste streams, based on economic and environmental benefit. Make recommendations for incentives that could result in creation of new waste-to-energy projects to meet this need. Create marketing assistance (exchanges, or buyer-seller lists and maps) for waste streams when this would be helpful.

Timeframe:  Begin upon approval, and continue with yearly reassessments of relevant changes.

  • 2.       Increasing the utilization of forestry byproducts, tree trimmings, and waste wood

Challenge:  South Carolina’s forestry industry is already a major economic contributor to the state and there are forestry byproducts and residuals that could add incremental revenues to landowners and forest products processers if nearby markets were available. Additionally, tree trimmings and other forms of wood waste can be diverted from landfills for beneficial use as fuel wood. 

Background: More nuclear generation will be incorporated in South Carolina’s electric generation mix (with no load-following capability), along with more solar generation at utility-scale and behind the meter in homes and businesses. As restrictions on coal or the desire to reduce coal use increase, the need for load-following and peaking units becomes more important. Only natural gas, hydro, biomass, and energy storage are left as dispatchable generating resources that can adjust with load variation.  The current price of natural gas generation drives utilities to run these units as base-load so that there is less ability to use them for peaking or load-follow capacity. There is very limited ability to expand hydro generation.  As a result of these constraints, the increased use of electric generation that uses waste wood could be beneficial to the utilities. Waste wood as a fuel also provides emission benefits and economic benefits to the state, especially in the rural economy. Forestry jobs would increase, and fuel dollars would be paid to in-state landowners instead of exported to coal or natural gas producing states. Less transport would be required since the wood is available locally in South Carolina.

Recommended Approach: The South Carolina Forestry Commission monitors the forestry products markets and could provide fuel wood studies to determine where sufficient forestry residuals, forestry byproducts, urban wood waste and suitable tree/yard trimmings exist for wood-fueled generating station sites. A task force of state government, state environmental groups and industry could prepare recommendations to legislators to develop additional in-state electric generation from this resource ensuring no conversion of natural forests.

Timeframe:  Begin upon approval.

  • 3.       Develop State Support and Implementation of Purposely Grown Crops for Biofuels and Bioenergy

Challenge:  Purposely grown crops produced for biofuels and bioenergy can serve a significant role in meeting the State’s liquid and solid fuel energy needs.  The challenge will be to identify which biomass crops will be most sustainable for production in South Carolina and to determine the most profitable means to harvest, transport, and store the biomass while minimizing its Carbon footprint. It will be necessary for the costs associated with biomass crops to be competitive with the costs associated with fossil fuels.

Background: Biomass produced in South Carolina represents significant economic opportunities for the State’s rural landowners and farmers by creating jobs and tax revenues in the agricultural and forestry sector, the current largest industries in the State. Bioenergy crops are generally more drought tolerant and require fewer inputs to produce than traditional food crops, and are well suited for production by limited resource farmers.  They are more adapted for production on the State’s many marginal, sandy soils and are safer for the environment than most food crops.  Current research emphasis on adding bio-product benefits to biomass crops will also result in another revenue stream to farmers and landowners.  Several of the biomass crops offer environmental services such as improving soil quality, water quality, and wildlife habitat, compared to traditional agriculture and forestry land uses. 

Recommended Approach: Work with Clemson University to develop recommendations and a plan for the use of biomass crops, such as purposely grown trees, perennial grasses, annual sorghum crops, and to a lesser extent food crop residues to be utilized to meet South Carolina energy needs, and contribute to the energy independence and the economy of South Carolina.

Timeframe:  Begin upon approval

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