Make biomass heat a priority for Minnesota
With abundant forestry and agricultural biomass resources, biomass could play a greater role in supplying heat in residential, commercial, and industrial applications. Very few states have adopted specific goals or policies to target replacement of fossil energy in heating applications. In addition to using biomass as a dedicated source of heat, biomass thermal energy has a role to play in integrated biorefineries that produce chemicals, fuels, and energy from biomass. Having policy to encourage renewable heat could help to companies build these facilities in the state.
State bonding for district heating projects
Numerous Minnesota communities are exploring the installation of biomass-fueled district heating systems. These systems supply heat from a central heating plant through a system of steam or hot water pipes. They are highly efficient, and in some parts of Minnesota can eliminate the need for volatile heating oil or propane. Projects are under consideration in Grand Marais, Ely, Itasca State Park, and Soudan Underground Mine State Park. The Bioeconomy Coalition supports the use of state bonding to fund individual district heating projects.
Other policy options
The Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota is exploring other policy options to encourage greater use of biomass as a source of heat. The Coalition is gathering input from various stakeholders to determine the best path forward for the state. Some options include the following:
- Producer Payments: The Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota supports the use of producer payments to help finance biomass heat, biobased chemical, and advanced biofuel projects. This model was successfully used in help build Minnesota’s ethanol industry.
- Renewable Gas Standard: Minnesota has renewable energy requirements for electricity and fuels, but no similar requirement for the heating sector (represented predominantly by natural gas utilities). Requiring that a certain percentage of heat in the state be supplied by renewable sources would be a direct way to increase their use.
- Biomass heat in the Renewable Portfolio Standard: At least one state, New Hampshire, allows biomass heat to qualify towards meeting state renewable electricity requirements. This would also be a direct way to increase the use of biomass as a heat source. The sale of “Renewable Electricity Credits” would provide additional revenue to help finance biomass heat projects.